The shiny new Chick-fil-A restaurant at Montgomery Plaza on the city's near west side may look like a typical Chick-fil-A on the surface, but what's underneath is an entirely different matter.
The Atlanta-based chain famous for its chicken sandwiches chose the West Seventh Street site for the company's first effort to design and build a sustainable restaurant -- a building that's environmentally friendly and saves operating costs by using energy efficiencies.
It could become the city's first restaurant to earn gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and only the second in Texas. The company said it will submit its application soon and hopes to hear back in about six months.
David Farmer, Chick-fil-A's vice president for innovation and service, calls the restaurant a "living laboratory."
A green store has long been in the company's plans, Farmer said, but the chance to build one hadn't arisen until now. Montgomery Plaza, a redeveloped urban site, earns points toward LEED certification.
"We knew we wanted to do this," Farmer said. "This is an interesting parcel."
The interior trim was made from recycled Chick-fil-A cups, the wood came from an old building in Georgia and wall medallions pointing out green features to customers were made from the company's own decommissioned stainless-steel fryers, Farmer said.
"All the wood had a prior life," Farmer said.
He declined to say what it cost to build the 4,617-square-foot store, but he said it was 20 percent more than what's usually spent. About 20 percent of the budget was spent on recycled materials, he said, such as the dining room tile, which has 40 percent recycled content. Also, 50 percent of the construction debris was diverted from the landfill and sent to be recycled.
A 35,000-gallon underground cistern will collect rainwater for irrigation, recycled tires were used to make the flooring in the indoor play area, vent hoods in the kitchen operate on demand, and the faucets in the kitchen and restrooms are low-flow, which will reduce water usage by 40 percent.
Skylights in the 132-seat dining area and windows in the kitchen let in natural light, and the ventilation system will pump in about 30 percent more fresh air. Farmer estimates a 14 percent reduction in energy use, which he said "is significant."
Bruce Slone, the owner/operator of the store, said customers will be asked to separate foam cups, cardboard, metal, plastic bags, and bottles into recycling bins. Slone, who owns the Chick-fil-A at 3200 Hulen St., said he's thrilled to be selected as the franchisee of the company's first green store.
"I learned quite a bit about sustainability in the building process," Slone said. "There were a lot of things I didn't know."
Nationwide, the U.S. Green Building Council counts 65 restaurants with some level of LEED certification, including seven in Texas. There is a base LEED certification, followed by silver, gold and platinum.
Austin City Hall Cafe and Store in Austin is the state's only gold-certified restaurant. Locally, the Olive Garden at Alliance in far north Fort Worth is silver-certified.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727