Simons celebrates anniversary of net-zero energy store

IMAGE: Simons' net-zero energy location at the Galeries de la Capitale in Quebec City. (Courtesy Simons)

Simons’ net-zero energy location at the Galeries de la Capitale in Quebec City. (Courtesy Simons)

It’s been one year since Simons opened Canada’s first net-zero energy retail store, and more green locations are on deck for the province.

“We want to be a leader in tackling the climate change crisis we are currently facing,” said Simons’ director of store development Angela Stinson.

The Quebec-based department store firm has already spent more than $4 million to create the solar-powered, 80,000-square-foot space at Galeries de la Capitale in Quebec City. That’s where the 178-year-old, family-owned fashion retailer is rooted.

The one-level space replaced the existing store on the second-floor of the same shopping centre, and it officially opened March 15, 2018.

Now there are bigger plans for Simons.

“We are currently looking to achieve net-zero at our St. Bruno expansion,” Stinson said. “We will continue to assess for future stores as well, including Fairview Pointe-Claire, and will be evaluating existing stores for potential opportunities for further energy efficiency and solar installations.”

The Galeries de la Capitale location saw 27 geothermal boreholes drilled into the ground under the parking lot; a pump then uses thermal heating or cooling from the ground to control the store temperature, depending on the season.

An energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system and state of the art LED lighting control program were also installed.

How the store reached net zero

The store has been designed to generate as much energy on-site as it consumes annually.

Energy Use Intensity  — or EUI — a measure of energy per square foot, per year (SF/yr) – has been reduced by 59 per cent, Stinson said.

Figures have dropped to 16.19 kWh/SF/yr (1,300,000 kWh/yr over 80,287 SF) at the new store. The previous location used 39.78 kWh/SF/yr. (2,090,484 kWh/yr over 52,549 SF).

“Building a net-zero energy store is the culmination of a six-year voyage of learning, understanding and discussing what our company’s roles and responsibilities are regarding environmental impact,” said the chain’s co-owner and president Peter Simons in a 2018 news release. “It takes extremely committed partners to achieve a goal like this and Oxford Properties stepped up, allowing us to make significant structural changes like drilling geothermal boreholes outside the shopping centre.”

Speaking of outside, the parking lot’s 133 spots feature canopies covered in 1,020 bifacial modules, which have glass on both surfaces to capture both direct and reflected sunlight.

“Charging stations below the canopies provide complementary electric vehicle charging to members of The Simons loyalty program,” Stinson said. “This includes (an) option for Level 3 fast charging, which charges most batteries to 90 per cent within 20 minutes”

Combined with 2,308 bifacial modules on the roof, the entire solar electric system will generate more than 1,300,000 kWh/year, roughly equivalent to 50 homes.

Simons’ history

Simons was founded in 1840 by John Simons as a dry goods store and is now led by brothers Peter and Richard Simons. It currently has 15 locations across the country, with nine in Quebec (three in Quebec City, plus Montreal, Anjou, Laval, St. Bruno, Sherbrooke, Gatineau); two in Edmonton (West Edmonton Mall and Londonderry); West Vancouver; Calgary; Ottawa; and Mississauga, Ont.

The Galeries de la Capitale location also features a “WeWatt” station in the activewear department, with three stationary bicycles where customers can charge their phones by cycling to create electricity.

“We see our sustainable initiatives as being an opportunity to start a dialogue with customers, which is why we set out to make our initiatives as visible as possible,” said Stinson.

Shoppers are noticing the changes. Feedback over the last 12 months has been very positive, Stinson said.

“The strong visual presence of our solar installation is what has been the catalyst for those conversations,” she said. “We have toured several groups through our store as part of case studies and learning groups.”

Art installations in store

A large-scale, eco-themed art installation from local artist Giorgia Volpe, known for reusing and repurposing items to create art, was commissioned by Simons to create eye candy for the store at Galeries de la Capitale.

La Cime, meaning “the top” is an 11-by-20-foot sculpture made from branches covered in paper mache, then dressed in recovered fabrics from Simons design team plus recycled clothing from Galeries de la Capitale customers. The wrapped branches are suspended at different heights and unfold in the skylight in the centre of the store.

Several other artistic pieces are displayed throughout, including original framed pieces from Quebec artists Tania Girard Savoie and Elysanne Tremblay in the customer service area.

“As a fifth-generation-owned company, it’s been important for us to look toward the next generation to understand how we can contribute to a sustainable future,” Stinson said.

Longo’s opened Canada’s first near net-zero supermarket in Stouffville, Ont. in the Greater Toronto Area’s York Region in Nov. 2018. The $11 million store is partially funded through Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Innovation Program. The 40,000 sq. ft. store will use 35 percent less energy than other supermarkets and produce 65 percent of its own energy through renewable technologies.


Kelly is a freelance multimedia journalist in the Toronto area. Her daily news background includes TV, newspaper and digital (in that order). Kelly has also spent time in the classroom…

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Kelly is a freelance multimedia journalist in the Toronto area. Her daily news background includes TV, newspaper and digital (in that order). Kelly has also spent time in the classroom…

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