The World’s Largest Sustainable Retail Store?

The U.S., LEED may be the standard by which green commercial buildings are judged, but in the U.K., it’s BREEAM — the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method. Which is why it’s kind of big deal that Marks & Spencer, one of the U.K.’s biggest retailer, has taken a BREEAM “Excllent” rating for its biggest store to date, which opened recently in Cheshire Oaks, on the outskirts of Liverpool.

Inhabitat reports that this 18,100-square-meter  (59,383-square-foot) retail building was designed by architect Aukett Fitzroy Robinson (AFR). It makes use of recycled, reflective roofing materials and Forest Stewardship Council-certified timber in the curved Glulam timber beams that compose that intriguing wave-shaped roof. This roof is shot through with north-facing skylights that form a strategic partnership with strategically angled cedarwood Brise Soleil on the sides of the building to maximize the amount of daylighting in the building — an unusual feature in a store of this size. It’s one of many energy-efficient features that helped the store earn its BREEAM stripes.

Marks & Spencer Cheshire Oaks

image via Marks & Spencer

Another significant green feature here is the use of Hempcrete in the walls of the building. Hempcrete is a mix of  hemp and lime that acts as an extremely efficient insulator. Unlike many forms of insulation, however, this one allows the building to breathe, helping to increase the indoor air quality in the store. The Hempcrete also performs the handy trick of absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

During construction, waste and debris was diverted from the landfills; when the building reaches the end of its natural life, much of it can be recycled and used again. A biomass broiler helps to keep the store warm in the winter, while a hydrocarbon refrigeration system keeps foods cool.

The Cheshire Oaks store is part of Marks & Spencer’s overall climate change commitment to become carbon neutral by the end of this year. It is the largest store the chain has ever built, and, following its BREEAM certification, one of the largest sustainable retail stores in the world. It’s also the third in a series of green stores that have been built by Marks & Spencer, following its Ecclesall Road and Stratford City locations.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.


  • Reply September 14, 2012


    Cheshire oaks is several hundred miles from london on the outskirts of liverpool, not london.

    • Reply September 14, 2012

      Susan DeFreitas

      Thanks for catching that, martymcfarty. The article has been corrected.

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