Where America Shops

Retail giant Sears once bragged it was the place “Where America Shops”. Its market share sub-divided by K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, and my mother’s favorite, the 99 Cent stores, Sears may only be able to make such claims in more modest geography these days. But given the announcement last week about its iconic office tower in Chicago, it will certainly be on America’s shopping list in the future.

Built almost four decades ago, the Sears Tower is the world’s tallest building (when you include the antennas!), but a grand old lady who is showing her age. Instead of following the trend of disposable construction and starting over, Tower owners committed to a retrofit of heating/cooling, lighting, elevator motors, controls, and insulation that will make the building one of the most energy-efficient in the world. When combined with wind turbines on the roof (remember, it’s in the Windy City), the Sears Tower will reduce its energy consumption 80%. That’s no typo – – 80%.

Not only will these upgrades be repaid by energy savings over time, but also the Tower will earn another half century of useful life. What does that do to the value of the real estate? I’ll bet the owners’ equity will climb higher than the new glass observation deck on the roof, paying off the upgrades almost overnight.

The next time someone says we can’t conserve our way to a cleaner future or eliminate fossil fueled generation completely, point out that America could shop at Sears – – and find quite a bargain.TT