10 December, 2008

Superstore Shells, Post Recession Uses For

Just an idea, of course.  But the question of what the USA calls the "big boxes " (being the shells of huge buildings that the megamarts and others leave behind) is beginning to plague us here too, with large shed-like shells left over when the businesses close or go belly-up being re-used willy-nilly or left empty.

So why shouldn't such buildings be re-purposed green?  By that I mean - they all have decent loading ramp facilities, since they would have had high stock turnover when they were economical.  That means you have one bonus already.

A further bonus is, as pointed out, the parking facilities.  I know it's not green to drive your car everywhere, but for some things you do need transport over and beyond what a bicycle or public bus can offer...

So here are my top uses for old big box buildings:

A recycling center.  You have places for people to drop off whitegoods and electronics, and you accept more incoming from local neighbourhood collection vehicles.  Run these yourself, small electric scooters and vehicles with trailers for larger whitegoods, and just bring local recyclables to your facility.  Once there are a few centres, put a call centre in one and divide up the area into localities, assigned by software.  That way when someone phones in and asks to have their old 51" TV removed, the software informs the relevant recycle centre which can then send out a scooter with a trailer to pick up the TV.

It's an ideal use for these big boxes, provides local employment, and if done right poses no health risks whatsoever.  For some items, a particular centre might hold a specialist section, and recycle those for all centres.  And for anything that will produce noxious byproducts, the centres act as a short term store-and-forward facility for larger facilities located away from the population centres.

Remember when I said we need to change how we sell electric cars?  Well, here's an ideal thing.  Put aside a few square meters for a showroom, or use a whole big box to sell EVs.  Once again, it's a re-use that makes environmentally better use of the places than just knocking them down and rebuilding would.  Selling electric vehicles as a commodity would be the way to go.

Yes, this will lose large car showrooms and sales organisations their status as the suppliers of cars - but let's face it this is a Good Thing, it's time that particular enclave was busted wide open.  Agile companies will convert their car lots into EV lots, or sell them and buy a big box building or two and stop selling fossil fuel cars.

Local nursery outlets.  Loads and loads of green-friendly plants.  Plants that thrive under local conditions and provide one of the essentials such as cover, foods, herbs, shade, and are reasonably decorative.  If these kinds of places are ubiquitous and sell cheap enough, think of the difference it will make to a city to reduce it's water use for gardens and at the same time increase the number of plants improving the air and converting much local waste locally.

Solar and renewable green energy stores.  Stock and supply everything a person needs to reduce their energy needs, generate their own energy, save their greywater, recycle their scraps as compost for plants.

Clothing and household item swap/trade/sell markets would benefit from such large venues, too. These could be a spot set aside for this, no matter what else the store holds, and would serve to make these places a community landmark and center.

When there's no possible use such as above, the places could still be converted by internally partitioning them, into small apartments.  I've seen several big boxes converted in this way, because the shell is already in place, the individual apartments inside were able to be built cheaply and quickly, and generally a two-storey layout is possible.  Stock such apartments with items from the swap/trade/sell markets and they can become crisis housing, add as many recycling and re-use options and they can also serve as examples of what can be done with green living.

I can think of dozens of things such places could be re-used for, and as with all the ideas above, there needs to be a bonus in the form of rates relief from local government, perhaps an incentive from federal government to assist in converting such stores, and for green items, a government rebate to enable such things to be sold cheaper than non-green alternatives.

It's the start of a new paradigm in what shops and facilities are needed, and makes ecologically friendly use of those big box stores, and it will become VERY relevant as time goes by.

And then as the push to be green loses relevance in a decade or so and is replaced by all green, it will be time to bring those big boxes down and recycle them into something else, perhaps apartments as above, or public facilities, or just tear them up, recycle the materials and plant the ground with a community parkland.

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