Black-Owned Car Dealership is Certified Gold

Before auto dealer Steve Jackson opened his Toyota store, being green wasn’t part of his personal lifestyle. He didn’t recycle or pay attention to how much water was running when he turned on a faucet. But that changed after he and his family visited several Toyota dealerships to get ideas for customizing the facility he would build near Dallas.

Some of the features of Toyota of Rockwall:

  • Natural daylight brightens 95% of the occupied interior spaces, including the service department and employee lunchroom.
  • All interior lights are sensored by natural daylight or electronically turned on and off as people enter and exit.
  • Water faucets are solar powered
  • Water is collected from rain on the roof and from air conditioning condensation–no city water is used for landscaping purposes.
  • In the entire building, no VOC paints are used–paint doesn’t release volatile chemical odors into the air.
  • Furniture, cabinets, and wallpaper are made from recyclable or sustainable materials.
  • Recycled aluminum is used for the building’s façade.

Jackson built Toyota of Rockwall, the first-ever automobile dealership to be LEED gold certified as an environmentally responsible and healthy place to work by the U.S. Green Building Council. The dealership opened February of this year.

Jackson already owned three dealerships in California, where he lived with his family. He relocated to Texas because he found the regulations in California too stifling, too “tough,” as he puts it. Before selling his Folsom Buick Pontiac GMC dealerships to another black owner in December 2007, Jackson was listed No. 52 on the 2007 BE AUTO DEALER 100 list.

While Jackson and his family toured Toyota stores to glean ideas, his wife, Barbara, and 18-year-old daughter, Jasmine–both of whom had long ago bought into environmental consciousness–were impressed by a LEED silver certified green dealership they visited in Texas. They urged Jackson to build a store like it, not so much because of any qualities about that dealership, but because of their own commitment to ecological responsibility. Initially Jackson resisted, but gave in after learning that pricing premiums were not excessive for building green.

The USGBC awards green building certifications in silver, gold, and platinum based on its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system. LEED criteria include sustainable site development, water conservation, energy efficiency, selection of materials and resources, and the environmental quality of indoor spaces.

Jackson estimates that building green increased his costs by 15%. Constructing and outfitting the 75,000-square-foot facility cost about $20 million. But Jackson is already reaping some financial as well as ecological benefits. In its first two months of operation, Jackson learned that his electric bills were half of what nongreen Toyota facilities of similar size in his marketplace pay; his water bills were one-eighth what he paid in California. All told, utilities account for about 10% of Jackson’s overhead expenses, and he estimates that he’d be paying twice as much had he not gone green; and his architect projects that