A guide to living local in New Hampshire

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Attainable Sustainable:

New Dealership Building
Steers in Favor of Environment

By Tom Long / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor

This feature highlights local businesses and their commitment to their employees, customers, the community and the future of the planet.

David and Audrey Hammer sell Chryslers, RAMs, Fiats and Jeeps, but they are also selling something else – the notion that a business can be profitable and environmentally responsible at the same time.
According to ReVision Energy, the new, 25,000-square-foot Contemporary Automotive dealership in Milford is the largest solar-powered car dealership in New Hampshire.

“It is environmentally sustainable and financially sustainable, too,” said David Hammer. He and his wife and co-owner, Audrey, were proud to talk about their new location at the intersection of Routes 101 and 13 in Milford. It replaces their dealership, which was a fixture on Elm Street since 1984.

The couple is environmentally conscious and outdoorsy. They enjoy hiking, skiing and snowshoeing, and David sometimes rides a bicycle to work from their home in Bedford.

“We decided to put our money where our mouths are,” he said.

“Look, we know this is not known as a clean business,” said Audrey. “So, we asked ourselves what we could do to change that? The answer was to change the way we operate.”

As part of their research before taking on the project, David said they asked people ready to buy a car if all other things were equal would they chose a traditional dealership or one that was environmentally friendly. They received a near-unanimous preference for the latter.

“If you care about the things people value, then I believe they will trust you’ll take care of them, too,” Audrey said.

“We visited about 20 dealerships all over the country to come up with ideas,” said David. “When we saw something we liked we added it to the plan.”

The couple also consulted their 20-something university student sons, who encouraged their parents to start the new project as soon as possible.

“The young adults are so much more aware of some things than we are,” Audrey said. And they kept an eye on things as construction progressed.

The dealership’s energy-efficient design elements include indoor and outdoor LED lighting and a tight building envelope.

“We installed LED lighting at home, and our electricity cost declined 30 percent, so we know it works,” David said.

Outside the dealership, storm water runoff is managed by four, large bioretention gardens that minimize its impact on the environment. The site is landscaped with plants, trees and grasses native to New Hampshire and that require less watering. 

Inside the facility, large ceiling fans circulate air flow more efficiently and optimize the building’s HVAC system. The service center collects and repurposes used motor oil. Two waste oil boilers, each with a capacity of 500,000 BTUH, generate approximately 70 percent of the building’s heating needs and distribute it through radiant floor heating.

Even the smallest environmental concerns were addressed when they built the new facility. There are electric car chargers, which the public is welcome to use, and there’s a filtered water dispenser, which not only allows for reusing water containers but also keeps track of how many plastic water bottles won’t end up in landfills as a result. Rooms were furnished with furniture from the old facility or purchased at used-furniture stores.

There’s even a state-of-the-art coffee station set up in the waiting area with ceramic – not plastic or paper – cups and refillable coffee pods.

“It’s a building we’re really proud of,” said Audrey.

There are 450 photovoltaic panels on the roof, enough to generate 150,000 kilowatts of electricity and eliminate 157,634 pounds of carbon pollution a year, equivalent to the emissions from 8,046 gallons of gas, or 175,240 miles driven by the average passenger vehicle, according to figures provided by ReVision Energy.

“The array won’t pay for itself for seven or eight years, but we decided it’s worth it. In the end it will be good for the environment and good for cost control,” said David.

“When we were considering the expense, we asked our sons what they thought and they said, ‘If not now, when?’” Audrey said.