Green Scene
A Shift to Green

As automotive dealers and manufacturers scramble to overcome the worst buying climate in decades, all eyes are fixed on a three-acre plot of land on Santa Rosa Avenue. On land once cited as a Federal Superfund clean-up zone, the new owners of Nissan of Santa Rosa are building California’s first LEED-certified auto dealership. The dealership will also be the first green Nissan dealership in the world.

State and local politicians and environmental leaders have applauded co-owners Lawrence Amaturo, Jim Bone and Huxley Richardson for pursuing Gold certification for the construction. Says Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, “Building a LEED-certified auto dealership in the midst of a serious economic crisis illustrates precisely the type of forward-thinking vision that will get our community through these tough times. It shows that economic development and environmental protection are mutually reinforcing—not at odds with each other.” Chatfield Construction of Lodi, Calif., has guided the $5 million building project.

“When we first started thinking green three years ago, most architects—and Nissan itself—told us it wasn’t possible,” says Amaturo. “But now, we’re on our way toward Gold and possibly Platinum certification. We couldn’t be more proud.”

While the term “green” has become a marketing label with wide interpretations, Nissan of Santa Rosa qualified for Gold status after stringent scoring by the U.S. Green Building Council, which reviewed the building techniques and environmental impact of the new facility (these reviews are ongoing, with new ones conducted as building progresses). The attitude from Nissan headquarters has become extremely encouraging. “We’re excited about having a new premier facility in Santa Rosa,” says Walter Burchfield, Jr., regional vice president of Nissan’s Northwest territory. “I believe the community will show its support for this investment in local economy.”

Nissan of Santa Rosa boasts advancements in the following areas:

Recycling: A concrete footing augmented with fly-ash reclaimed from coal-powered energy plants (reducing the fly-ash entering our atmosphere); an asphalt parking lot that was reclaimed from the original lot and regenerated to reduce the amount of new asphalt (i.e. oil) needed to repave; and reclaimed and recycled steel that was separated for use in other projects.

Electricity: Solar panels that will generate 96 kilowatts of energy; electric charging stations for Nissan’s electric vehicles (EVs), which are expected to arrive in Sonoma County in 2010; and oversized skylights that create a naturally lit showroom, eliminating much traditional (and wasteful) high-intensity fixtures.

Alternative transportation:
A large bike rack for employees who want to bike to work and private showers for freshening up after their ride.

Water conservation:
A rainwater reclamation program that creates a bioswale (a drainage course designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water) to reduce toxic runoff into the city’s sewers and creeks; reduced water use with low-flow fixtures throughout the facility; and low-flow water emitters for exterior landscaping.

Carbon footprint:
Landscaping that shields the building from heat-producing sunlight; giant “extended reach” ceiling fans for natural cooling; high-efficiency heaters and air conditioners; high-performance glazing on the showroom windows to reduce heat exchange and the need for traditional HVAC temperature controls; and interior materials that reduce the level of VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions.

As a complement to the project, a community resource website ( was launched in 2008. On the site, users can follow the building process with a video blog, comment on the building as an icon for Sonoma County, offer suggestions and tap into other online resources that promote environmentally responsible lifestyles.

Nissan of Santa Rosa will be filled with green automotive technology in the way of hybrids, clean-burning diesel engines and an all-electric sedan. Also, Nissan Corporation has selected Santa Rosa as the test site for the launch of its EVs in 2010.

Legislators Pat Wiggins, Wes Chesbro and Noreen Evans have begun the process to present a resolution to the State Senate that will recognize the dealership as an example of what local business can do to reduce oil dependence and improve the environment. Project supporter Anne Hancock from Santa Rosa-based Campaign for Climate Change recently commented, “It will take a lifestyle change, a change of thinking and positive economic support to sustainably reduce greenhouse gases and global warming.”

 “We want to thank and acknowledge all the local folks, the city officials, the legislators in Sacramento and our politicians in Washington for calling or writing to support our new building. While it costs more to go green, I’m pleased the car buyers in Sonoma County take pride in having the first green dealership in California,” comments Bone.

Tom Nelson is the director of public relations at Nissan of Santa Rosa. You can contact Nissan at (707) 535-2529.