Utilising Resources Through Clever Design at IKEA Dublin

Committed to reducing the environmental impact of all its operations while simultaneously improving efficiency, IKEA has invested €2.2 million on renewable energy and recycling technologies at its giant new store at Ballymun, Dublin, to make it one of the most advanced ‘green buildings’ in Ireland.

IKEA opened its first store in Ireland at Ballymun in July 2009 – the 25th new market within the Swedish home furnishings retailer’s global network. Located on a 12.6 hectare site in the Ballymun Regeneration zone, the new store covers 31,500 sq metres over two floors, which stock the full range of IKEA items totalling 9,500 products.

The environmental and energy efficiency technology incorporated into the new IKEA Ballymun site includes:

  • Groundsource heating and cooling system;
  • 650 kW biofuel woodburner heating;
  • Solar shading to the south facade;
  • Rainwater harvesting system;
  • Occupancy driven fresh air provision;
  • AHUs to provide ‘free’ cooling wherever possible;
  • Movement detector activated lighting;
  • Building Energy Management System;
  • Recycling equipment/system.


Regarding the Eur2.2 million invested by IKEA in renewable energy and recycling technology and systems at the Ballymun site, Charlie Browne, corporate environment manager UK & Ireland, explains: “There were local planning requirements for carbon reduction initiatives to be incorporated but we also have a strategy called ‘IKEA Goes Renewable’ which establishes targets for all new and existing stores. So some were down to planning requirements and other aspects were due to our own international standards.”


Geothermal System

IKEA has spent Eur1.75 million on the installation of a geothermal system which is the most significant investment in ground source technology in the Irish market. By using the geothermal power, sourced from 158 90 metre bore holes drilled under the carpark area, IKEA is deriving at least 44% of the Ballymun site’s total energy requirement from renewable sources. The geothermal system will result in a 65% annual reduction in carbon emissions, which is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 300 average homes.

The rainwater harvested from the roof of the Ballymun store is filtered and used to fill the cisterns for flushing all lavatories on site as well as for landscape watering and water supply to all external taps for cleaning purposes. “This state-of-the-art system is a good example of how IKEA is utilising resources through clever design,” he says.

Similarly, IKEA has installed an extremely efficient waste management system. The largest element of IKEA’s waste-stream is plastic and cardboard, which are compacted and baled on site. Damaged pallets and damaged products are used as fuel for the wood-burning boiler. The 650 kW wood-burning boiler provides hot water for the entire store as well as heating for the warehousing area.

Impressive Recycling Rate

“During the first month of trading the store exceeded its target and recycled 90% of its waste and in September we reached 92%. This compares with a commercial Irish national average of 47.5%,” explains Charlie Browne. “This represents a saving of approximately Eur80,000 per annum for the Dublin store.”

He continues: “We are cost neutral. The store is not spending any money on waste disposal. The revenue we are receiving from the baled cardboard and plastic is offsetting any thing that has to be sent out as residual waste.” Of course, this is in direct contrast to most commercial businesses which spend significant amounts on waste disposal.

IKEA’s stores in the UK are recycling 85% of all their waste. “Although the UK average is 85%, which was achieved last year, some stores are nearly at 100%. So Dublin has stepped up to the plate and we have installed what we know works. Much of that is down to the pre-training and education we do with our co-workers and then providing the right equipment and protocols,” he remarks.

According to Charlie Browne, the 85% recycling rate achieved by IKEA stores in the UK saves the business £1 million a year on waste disposal. In 2003, IKEA was operating 11 outlets in the UK with an average recycling rate of 55% and spending £890.000 on waste disposal. In 2008, with 18 stores achieving a recycling rate of 85%, the waste bill was £760,000. “We now have seven more stores in the estate and bearing in mind increased costs in landfill, transportation and other operation costs, we are actually spending less. We believe we can squeeze out more savings and the goal for us is cost neutrality,” he comments.

Highly Efficient

Because the Ballymun store is newly built and incorporates the latest energy efficiency and waste management technologies, it is one of the most efficient outlets in IKEA’s international retail network. However, many existing UK stores are being retrofitted with energy saving features such as voltage optimisation as part of the IKEA Goes Renewable strategy.

“To encourage existing stores to adopt renewable technology, even though it is more expensive to retrofit, the IKEA Goes Renewable project has extended the capital expenditure payback from the normal level of 3-5 years to 8 years,” Charlie Browne points out. The twin goals of IKEA Goes Renewable are to ultimately use 100% renewable energy and to reduce energy consumption by 25% based on 2005 levels.

“In the UK we have reduced comparable energy consumption by 25% and we are now looking to stretch this to 35% through retrofitting energy efficiency measures, and saving from our energy bill £1.2 million a year which is pure profit to the bottom line to repay those investments” he adds.

“We have also been awarded in December 2009 the UK carbon trust standard after showing an absolute reduction in energy consumption even after adding to the store estate and establishing robust energy management routines in our stores.”

Long-term Approach

New build projects provide an opportunity to design in such features from the start. However, a long-term approach is necessary. “Often construction projects are judged on cost per square meter but the retailer/owner has then to pick up the operational cost. So you may save a few euro per square meter by not fitting phased circuitry, which will allow you to switch on and off lights by zones, or by not installing PIRs into buildings but the ongoing energy cost to the operation afterwards will be significant.” The IKEA UK and Ireland environmental manager continues: “It is important to take into consideration the lifetime of the building and the full operational cost and not to focus purely on the capital cost.”

Commitment to the Environment

IKEA’s commitment to the environment extends beyond the building and day-to-day operation of the Ballymun store. “We have a target on customers arriving by public transport to the store. We are one of the very few retailers that have this as a plan. We have two bus routes serving the store and we encourage customers to use them.”

He elaborates: “IKEA is constantly looking at reducing its overall carbon footprint. We have been doing this for a long time and it is part of our DNA to use resources and clever design to make the operation more cost effective. When we sawed the legs of the first table back in the 1950s it was not about the environment but to be more cost effective by fitting more flat-packed furniture on the trucks, which in turn leads to less trucks on the road.”

Sound Business Sense

Charlie Browne stresses that good environmental practice also makes sound business sense. “A good place for any company to start is by looking at the invoices for waste disposal, energy costs and consumables, such as paper consumption and transport, because that is where the savings are and that is also where the environmental impacts are. It is important to set targets. By reducing your energy bill, you will reduce your carbon footprint, cutting waste disposal costs will reduce your impact on landfill, and tackling consumable costs will also reduce your impact on the environment.” The IKEA UK & Ireland corporate environment manager concludes: “Don’t green-wash by merely paying lip-service to environmental considerations because people will see through it, so make your actions real.”

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