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The Daily Tarheel features Chapel Hill Tire

March 2, 2010

Dual flush toilets, rainwater collectors, LED lighting and solar panels are not usually associated with a building dating back to 1905.

Not to mention a car care center.

After three months of renovations to its Carrboro location, Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center plans to return to a normal business schedule by mid-April, with a much more sustainable building and lot.

“It kind of flies in the face of what people think of when they think of a car care place,” said Joel Sheer, president of Sheer Associates Inc. and marketing manager for the 57-year-old business.

The process was a bit more expensive than using non-sustainable methods, but it certainly wasn’t a deal breaker, owner Marc Pons said.

“It requires different thinking more than it requires a lot more money,” he said.

It was Pons’ membership on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce that first got him thinking about how he could sustainably renovate the Carrboro location of his business.

“It really wasn’t in our financial interest to tear it down. That would have slowed us down,” Pons said.

The chamber had been looking into incorporating green practices into local businesses, he said, using a test from the Green Plus Institute for Sustainable Development.

“I figured as a board member I ought to take the test and see where this stood,” he said.

Once Pons started planning, the idea began to encompass more than installing solar panels.

“Ideas started flying — we said, ‘Let’s install dual flush toilets, use low VOC paints, reuse some of the building materials’ — it got to be really fun,” Pons said.

There are 82 solar panels on the roof, said Ed Witkin, director of solar operations for Solar Tech South. The system will generate about 60 kilowatts a day with about 21,000 kilowatts being generated each year, he said.

The electricity generated from the solar panels will be sold to Duke Energy at a wholesale rate, with the electricity needed to run the center bought back from Duke, Pons said.

“You can actually sell the electricity that’s generated for more than what you buy it for,” Witkin said.

With the circulation of energy being bought and sold and governmental tax credits, Pons said he expected the investment in the panels to be earned back after five years.

Original beams dating back to the early 1900s were kept in place around the entryway and flash concrete, an environmentally friendly type of concrete, was used throughout the facilities, Sheer said.

Impermeable surfaces on the property were torn out and replaced with new landscaping to prevent run-off, and a sitting garden was added for customers to enjoy.

Although the building is not green certified, Pons said he hopes the changes made will inspire other local businesses to make their businesses more efficient.

“Going forward with anything we do, we will try to incorporate what we’ve done in Carrboro,” Pons said.

Contact the City Editor at citydesk@unc.edu.