Eight decades after McDonald’s restaurant revolutionized a speedier way to prepare and serve meals, the fast-food giant is once again setting new standards in the industry, laying the groundwork for a more ecologically responsible place to dine.
The façade of the 8,000-square-foot McDonald’s at Disney World in Buena Vista, Florida, not only appears strikingly different than its traditional restaurant chain, but every segment of the building has been meticulously designed to create the world’s first “net-zero” fast food restaurant.
“It’s McDonald’s goal to reduce its carbon emissions across its portfolio,” said Jean Gibbons, WSP USA buildings vice president. “McDonald’s has intended to use this project as a pilot for future energy reductions steps in new and existing restaurants and future net-zero developments.”
Working with Chicago-based Ross Barney Architects on behalf of the McDonald’s Corporation, WSP was responsible for developing the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering concepts through design development and energy analysis through design and start-up, both critical in enabling the project to reach its carbon neutral objectives.
To achieve net-zero carbon emissions, the restaurant committed to eliminating carbon dioxide emissions wherever possible, or to offset its carbon dioxide emissions in other areas through removal of the carbon dioxide generated by the operation. This meant committing to 100 percent of the energy used on site to be electricity-based, moving away from the typical use of gas-source cooking and water heating equipment.
Additionally, the new building incorporates several features that reduce carbon emissions through lower energy consumption, including an induced natural ventilation strategy, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) heating-ventilation-air conditioning (HVAC) systems, high efficiency kitchen equipment, and an air-source heat-pump water heating scheme. The photovoltaic solar panels then generate the electricity for the building with zero carbon emissions.
To naturally cool and shade the interior, the building also features green walls that are covered with vegetation, mimicking the building’s wetlands surroundings and lowering the incident solar radiation onto the restaurant walls. Also, the large canopy over the restaurant supporting the photovoltaic array does double duty, shading the entire building and outdoor dining patio while generating electricity for the restaurant.
“The new building employs advanced shading strategies, which reduces the cooling load while increasing the visual comfort for customers, as well as creating an overall better outdoor environment,” said Mohammad Abbasi, energy analyst for WSP.