Since its inception in 1953, PCC Community Markets— the largest consumer-owned food cooperative in the United States—has meticulously curated their store designs, programming, and community engagement to embrace and empower the neighborhoods they serve. In 2017, they began a journey that would not only elevate the co-op’s dedication to health and wellness on an unprecedented scale but would pioneer a goal that no grocery store or chain had ever sought before. PCC Community Markets was undertaking the challenge of becoming the world’s first LEED-certified grocery store to obtain Living Building Challenge (LBC) Petal Certification. And in the winter of 2020, their vision was realized.
PCC Community Markets in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA is the first LBC Petal Certified grocery store on earth. The Living Building Challenge is a rigorous and highly revered green building certification program and sustainable design framework that visualizes the ideal for the built environment. Since its extraordinary achievement, two more PCC stores—West Seattle and Bellevue—have also achieved LBC Petal Certification.
Overflowing outside and welcoming you in, each PCC Community Markets experience holistically emulates that of an open-air farmer’s market and is one that serves as an authentic reflection of the neighborhood it serves. Furthering that reflection, each store incorporates a handmade art installation, crafted exclusively from reclaimed materials and/or painted by a local artist. In Ballard, for example, shoppers are greeted by “Peggy”: a three-story multi-dimensional octopus and her accompanying mural, a display whose materials were conscientiously selected to ensure the LBC’s Materials Petal standards were met.
Store programming is holistically designed to be flexible, transparent, and engaging, adaptably built to evolve alongside culinary trends. Elements throughout the store, such as reclaimed local cedar wood produce bins, can be easily rearranged to fit the needs of every seasonal showcase.
The decision to work with a limited materials palette was intentional, aligning with the goals of durability, sustainability, and minimizing waste.
In Ballard, for instance, 100% of the store’s wood—showcased across fixtures, custom benches, and countertops—is FSC certified, with 10% of elements, from foodservice equipment to shelving, having been reclaimed or reused. Over 40% of the materials, just shy of $1.4M, were sustainably sourced, with 9.2% of those being locally derived from within 100 miles. Stores are now able to capture substantial heat and energy savings and reduce water use by 50%.
Achieving the world’s first Living Building Challenge Petal Certified grocery store—an unprecedented accomplishment in the United States—PCC Community Markets continues to push the boundaries of sustainability by pursuing certification in a number of its other new stores.