Industry Q&A: Costa equipment chief talks green kit

Opening of the Costa Eco Pod in Telford. Picture by Sam Bagnall

A ‘groundbreaking’ new Eco Pod store could shape the way that Costa builds and specs outlets in future. FEJ caught up with Oliver Rosevear, energy and environment manager for Costa, to find out the secrets behind the design and ask what implications it might have for the choice of catering equipment inside its stores.

What’s special about the Eco Pod and its sustainability credentials?

The new Eco Pod Costa at Wrekin Retail Park, Telford, is the result of a creative and effective partnership between Costa, as occupier, and Hammerson, as developer of the building. Through smart architectural design and intelligent use of building materials, the building is ‘zero energy’ and therefore the only energy needed for Costa’s operations will be for equipment such as the espresso coffee machines, dishwashers and so on. This is the first time in the UK that a ‘zero energy’ cafe/restaurant building has been built and opened commercially.

Oliver Rosevear, Costa

Oliver Rosevear oversees the adoption of energy efficient practices in Costa coffee shops.

What makes the Eco Pod ‘zero energy’?

The majority of energy use in conventional commercial buildings is spent on heating and cooling the building (i.e. building plant). What’s different with the Eco Pod is the use of passive ventilation and building materials which naturally manage the internal temperature, keeping it at suitable and pleasant levels for customers and staff alike. The building also includes solar PV panels which produce energy for use within the building, offsetting some of the energy used by the coffee-making equipment.

Does Costa have any intention of scrutinising the efficiency of the catering equipment in future Eco Pod launches in order to take the ‘zero energy’ proposition even further?

We work closely with all our equipment manufacturers to develop the most energy efficient equipment available to us. From our ceramic panini grills to our intelligent coffee machines — energy and water efficiency are at the centre of our decision-making process. This focus has delivered a 32% energy saving across our retail estate since 2009. As with all successful businesses we want to ensure we continuously improve. We therefore continue to scan the market for new innovative technology which will help us continue to drive down our carbon emissions.

Will all new Costa coffee shops be built this way?

The Eco Pod is a test bed for us to trial and learn lessons about sustainable design and technologies. We intend to draw on the best bits and what works well so that, where possible, we can incorporate these lessons into any new build coffee shops as well as our existing network.

It’s early days at the moment, but once we have had the unit open for a few months we will have more data to evaluate”

Which companies have been involved in this project?

The Eco Pod is the result of a collaborative partnership between Costa and Hammerson. Supporting Costa and Hammerson are Emission Zero [architect], Projex Building Solutions [project and cost management] and Fordingbridge [building frame design and build]. We are using expert UK-based businesses to help us with the Eco Pod project.

Why did Costa choose Telford for the Eco Pod?

At Wrekin Retail Park, we had the ideal combination of a willing and progressive landlord, in Hammerson, and a supportive planning context, in Telford & Wrekin Council. It was the right site at the right time for us. It’s also appropriate to pioneer this type of design and engineering in Telford because of the town’s history and associations with innovation in engineering.

How much energy does the building use?

The Eco Pod is expected to be significantly more efficient than a ‘conventional’ Costa coffee shop. It’s early days at the moment but, once we have had the coffee shop open for a few months, we will have more data to evaluate and work with. We are confident that we will see a significant reduction versus a ‘conventional’ Costa.

Do you have any immediate plans for other Eco Pods around the country?

We need to monitor and evaluate the performance of the Eco Pod over six to 12 months before we can be clear about lessons learned and how we apply them. Certainly we are keen to continue driving down use of energy and resources across our operations and to be as sustainable and efficient as possible.

How important is energy efficiency for Costa when selecting new internal operating equipment? Is there anything that Costa is doing to lead the market on this front?

Energy efficiency is a key consideration when selecting new equipment for our stores. Often energy costs can far outweigh the capital cost of equipment over its lifetime. Therefore it is essential we select the right equipment for the long term, rather than making short-term cost gains. A great example of this innovation is our new Valina coffee machine. Rather than using a single boiler, our machine has three chambers to improve the efficiency of heating the water. The machine is able to learn the trade patterns of the store and manage its power usage throughout the day and week. This has led to a reduction in energy usage of 28% compared to its predecessor. In addition, the machine gives out less heat which reduces the demands on our in-store cooling systems. Therefore, not only does it deliver great coffee every day — it also uses less energy in the process.

It is essential we select the right equipment for the long-term, rather than making short-term cost gains. A great example of this innovation is our new Valina coffee machine”

Would Costa consider having a different range of internal catering equipment in future Eco Pod stores compared to regular stores if the company felt there was a significant energy efficiency gain to be made?

All our equipment has to be fit for purpose and help our teams to operate the store as efficiently as possible. If new equipment is able to help our teams deliver the same great service to our customers while reducing our impact on the environment then we would absolutely look to utilise it in both our Eco Pod and our regular stores. Eco Pod is not so much a showcase as a test bed for what may be possible in our future store estate.

Building a zero energy coffee shop

The eyes of Costa’s environment and energy team will be on Telford for the rest of the year as the group looks to its new ‘Eco Pod’ store design to understand how to further drive down energy consumption across its business.

The site, which Costa proclaims is the first ‘zero energy’ coffee shop building in the UK, will be monitored closely so that the lessons the company learns can be incorporated into new build stores that it launches in future.

The design and fit-out was co-ordinated in partnership with retail property specialist Hammerson, which owns the retail park and facilitated the delivery of the new concept store. The Eco Pod provides all of the food and beverage menu choices available in ‘regular’ Costa coffee shops but, crucially, all of this will happen inside a ‘zero energy’ building.

‘Zero energy’ is achieved through passive ventilation and innovative construction techniques, which mean that the energy required to heat and cool the building is minimised and that the low amount of energy that is required for building temperature control will come from solar PV cells embedded in the specially curved roof, balancing out overall. A special timber frame constructed using FSC-sourced timber as an alternative to a steel frame reduces the embodied carbon footprint of the building.

The building design features are what give the coffee shop its overall ‘zero energy’ score. The actual internal operating catering equipment — including espresso machines, Panini grills and dishwasher equipment — all use power in a conventional way.

With over 1,800 coffee shops in the UK and more than 1,100 overseas, Costa claims to be the fastest growing coffee shop business in the UK and the second largest coffee shop operator in the world. The company has not disclosed its target for how many Eco Pod stores it plans to open.

Costa UK chief hails foodservice design first

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Jim Slater insists the Eco Pod is an exciting first for coffee shop and retail design in the UK.

Jim Slater, the managing director of Costa UK and Ireland’s 1,800-strong store estate, believes the launch of the Eco Pod, could be a watershed moment for the high street coffee chain. He suggests the investment it has made raises the bar as far as sustainability in the foodservice sector is concerned.

“This is an exciting first for coffee shop and retail design here in the UK and has the potential to transform not just how we build new stores at Costa but the industry far more widely. We wanted to explore new ways to serve quality coffee to our customers while managing our environmental footprint as responsibly as we can. Through a successful partnership with Hammerson, we have developed an outstanding new type of test bed building design, which really does have the potential to make a massive difference if rolled out more widely.”

Eco Pod in numbers

13: Number of weeks it took to build the Eco Pod

150: Size of the building in square metres

58: Number of seats inside

20: Number of seats outside

10: Number of employees

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