PCC Community Markets Recognized with World’s First Living Building Challenge Petal-Certified Grocery Store by International Living Future Institute

2020 News

(SEATTLE, December 1, 2020)PCC Community Markets (PCC), the largest community-owned food co-op in the U.S., in collaboration with the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), today announced that the PCC Community Markets in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle is the first Living Building Challenge (LBC) Petal-Certified grocery store in the world. To obtain the certification, PCC met stringent requirements for the Materials, Place and Beauty Petals in pursuit of ILFI’s LBC Petal Certification, the world’s most rigorous green building standard.

“PCC is setting the standard for grocers around the world — showing the possibilities of building for a better future,” said Shawn Hesse, Director of Business Development at the International Living Future Institute. “We look forward to seeing how PCC continues to drive positive impacts in their community as they pursue the Challenge with their future locations.”

The Ballard PCC certification comes after years of effort to reimagine store design. Built with an eye to reducing environmental impact, the store creates a unique space that nurtures a deep sense of connection to nature and the local community. The Ballard location is the first of PCC’s stores to be LBC Petal Certified. Two others were built for certification and are going through evaluations — West Seattle and Bellevue — and the co-op will develop the upcoming Downtown, Kirkland (relocation) and Madison Valley stores to meet LBC requirements. PCC is participating in ILFI’s Volume Pilot Program, which increases efficiency when certifying multiple projects by evaluating store design and materials at a portfolio scale.

“For decades, PCC has worked to build sustainable and organic food systems so that we could sell food with less harmful chemicals in our stores. Through our partnership with ILFI, we were able to reduce the harmful chemicals in our stores themselves,” said Brenna Davis, PCC’s VP of Social and Environmental Responsibility. “In our pursuit of the Petals, we built a stunning store with sustainably sourced and less toxic building materials; energy-efficient systems that lower climate impact; and beautiful public art with the sole intent of celebrating the Ballard neighborhood.”

Materials Petal: Safe Materials & A Focus on the Local Community

One of the most critical and resource-intensive elements of the Certification was ensuring Ballard PCC eliminated building materials that contain chemicals on the LBC “Red List.” LBC works to eliminate the use of the “worst-in-class” materials and chemicals on their Red List — an extensive list of over 800 toxic substances that have the greatest negative impact to human and ecosystem health. PCC spent thousands of hours over the course of two years reviewing hundreds of building materials and pieces of equipment, down to individual components, to confirm that materials were LBC and Red List compliant for the Ballard store.

To meet the rigorous demands, PCC had to find new vendors, in some instances including new suppliers, for Red List-free interior finishes, such as drywall, concrete finishes, and paints. PCC also worked with some existing manufacturers to change their process and deliver custom designs:

  • Checkstand Belts: The initially proposed conveyor belt contained polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a Red List substance deemed harmful to human and environmental health. After an extensive search for materials, the manufacturer identified a urethane/polyester belt alternative, making the belt that PCC staff, members and shoppers come in contact with safer for them and their groceries.
  • Lighting: Initially, one of the lighting manufacturers was using a powder coating that was on LBC’s Red List. PCC worked with this manufacturer to customize their fixtures with a safer material so that they could be used in the store. The Ballard store was also designed to maximize the use of natural light — depending less on electricity during daylight hours. When natural light is insufficient, the co-op uses light emitting diode (LED) fixtures that consume 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than traditional incandescent fixtures.

In the build of this store, PCC also looked to invest in the local economy and minimize the environmental impacts associated with transportation of goods during construction. More than one-third (33%) of the building materials (by material budget) were sourced within 500 km (311 mi) of the store and 97% of building materials (by material budget) were sourced from within the U.S. Additionally, the project team advocated for the elimination of toxic substances in the marketplace by writing more than 300 letters to manufacturers promoting safe building products.

Place Petal: Protecting Thriving Ecosystems

The ILFI’s Habitat Exchange Program — under the Place Petal — works to protect existing, thriving ecosystems from compromise as a result of development. With the build of the new store, the co-op contributed funds to protect, in perpetuity, an area of land equivalent to Ballard PCC’s building footprint of approximately 27,000 square feet. For context — with this support, PCC is helping to protect land half the size of a professional football field.

Beauty Petal: Inspired Art

Meeting the needs of the Beauty Petal ensures that Ballard PCC is more than just a location that co-op members and shoppers can feel good about; it was also designed to elevate their spirits as soon as they enter. PCC partnered with Seattle illustrator and artist, Kyler Martz, to create a stunning entryway installation that showcases art that aims to enrich the lives of those who pass by.

Martz’s work pays homage to the nautical roots of the Ballard neighborhood and the Puget Sound, home to the world’s largest species of octopus. The installation features a 16-foot-tall octopus and an underwater-themed mural — all of which also avoid Red List materials. To do this, Kyler had to adjust his standard process of using Styrofoam for the initial model and instead worked with wood. He used reclaimed materials wherever possible — including 448 used ramekins from a local restaurant supply store for the octopus’ tentacles.

Ongoing Commitment to Sustainability

In addition to the copious work done to meet the standard for LBC Petal Certification, PCC also made design decisions that were outside of the Petal requirements and beyond what traditional grocers use, including:

  • Water Conservation: Compared to standard models, Ballard PCC’s steam cookers use 90% less water and the store’s dishwashers use 40% less water. The co-op also selected faucets that use 60% less water than standard faucets yet achieve the same water pressure.
  • Sustainable Refrigeration: PCC installed a carbon dioxide refrigeration system, which boasts 3,000 times less of a global warming potential than the synthetic refrigerants used in most grocery stores.

Ballard PCC opened on November 13, 2019 and is the co-op’s 13th of 15 locations. It is the first PCC location to be Petal Certified; West Seattle and Bellevue locations are going through the same certification process as will the Downtown, Kirkland and Madison Valley stores once they open.


About PCC Community Markets

Founded in Seattle in 1953, PCC Community Markets (PCC) is the nation’s largest community-owned food market with an unmatched enthusiasm for making food from scratch. PCC is a haven for those who share a dedication to fresh, organic, seasonal food that is sustainably sourced from local producers, farmers, ranchers and fishers. With an active membership of just over 86,000 households, PCC operates 15 stores in the Puget Sound area, including the cities of Bellevue, Bothell, Burien, Edmonds, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond and Seattle. Seattle stores are in the neighborhoods of Ballard, Central District, Columbia City, Fremont, Green Lake, View Ridge and West Seattle. The co-op also plans to open new stores in Downtown Seattle and Madison Valley and relocate its Kirkland location.

In 2019, PCC gave more than 65% percent of pretax earnings to members and the communities it serves, including nonprofits around the Puget Sound area such as Washington Farmland Trust, FareStart, Ventures, and Long Live the Kings.


About the International Living Future Institute
The International Living Future Institute is an environmental NGO committed to catalyzing the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative. The Institute is premised on the belief that providing a compelling vision for the future is a fundamental requirement for reconciling humanity’s relationship with the natural world. The Institute operates the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most advanced, holistic performance standard for buildings. It is a hub for many other visionary programs that support the transformation toward a living future. Learn more at www.living-future.org.





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