Thinking of Buying a Fast-Casual Franchise? Read this report first.
Web Exclusive
Quick-Serve Design Takes the LEED
North Carolina McDonald’s hopes to educate others with sustainable design.
McDonald's LEED-certified store

Leaning against the plastic-wrapped drink station in the soon-to-be-opened McDonald’s on Kildaire Farm Road in Cary, North Carolina, stands a large, decorated poster board displaying the Kenyan Proverb: “Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children.”

Upon seeing the resting place of the board, Ric Richards, owner and operator of the redesigned location—one of seven that he owns in the Research Triangle—anxiously finds a construction team member to relocate the board to a safer location, jokingly saying, “If that gets damaged, you’re buying me a new one!”

He has good reason to be concerned, too. The decorative piece is a significant player in the store’s design and conveys the founding principle behind this McDonald’s creation.

So how does a Kenyan Proverb have any significance to a suburban North Carolina McDonald’s? For this, the first LEED-certified McDonald’s in North Carolina and only the third of its kind in the country (certification pending), even the smallest aspects of the design were meant to “treat the Earth well.”

Scheduled to open July 14, the Cary McDonald’s submitted for a LEED Gold rating, hoping to earn 43 to 44 LEED credits. Sustainable and environment-friendly elements can be found throughout the store, from the countertops to the restrooms to the dining room décor. Even the old location, which was razed to make room for the new, was demolished in a green manner: 99.1 percent of it was reused or recycled.

Included in the new store’s design are 19 Solatube lights, which provide natural lighting to 92 percent of the restaurant and help it use 24 percent less energy than a standard McDonald’s; a ceiling grid that is between 60 and 80 percent recycled materials; rapidly renewable resources such as kirei board, bamboo, sunflower seed board, and wheat board weaved into the dining room décor; Energy Star–rated kitchen equipment; low-VOC interior materials; petroleum-free, recyclable furniture; and water-sustaining equipment, like toilets and dish washing machines that help them save 550,000 gallons of water a year.

We really wanted to focus on not only drawing people into the restaurant and practicing sustainable design and construction, but also educating the public.”

The parking lot even contains, along with bike racks and transit maps, charge points for fuel-efficient cars, making this McDonald’s the first restaurant in the country to have them.

One of the most important aspects to the new McDonald’s, says Richards, is that the entire process—meetings with architects, contractors, and consulting firms and then the building of the structure—was documented by a videographer, allowing them the opportunity to distribute information on sustainable fast-food design. The video, along with other sustainable information, will be provided on a 42-inch touchscreen LCD television inside the store.

“I wanted to build this restaurant because I thought it was the right thing to do,” Richards says. “I think also part of the right thing to do is to educate other people about what we do.”

“We really wanted to focus on not only drawing people into the restaurant and practicing sustainable design and construction, but also educating the public,” says Logan Luzader of Durham-based LMHT Architects, lead architect on the project. “So that you kind of feel like, ‘Wow I’m going to McDonald’s but I’m also learning, and I’m understanding why this is important for us to do in the construction industry.’”

Sam Oches is QSR’s associate editor.