The notion of an environmentally friendly gas station might seem like the ultimate oxymoron, but one exists right here in Knightsville.
Just outside Summerville, you still can gas up your big SUV and buy cigarettes and junk food, all while being enclosed in structures with a forward-thinking, sustainable design.
Developer Mark Jordan had the freedom and imagination to try something new, a far cry from some of his earlier stations that could be considered little more than bits of sprawl.
Working with architect Christopher Karpus, the new Kangaroo station is built of concrete made partly from fly ash from coal-fired power plants. Its counter tops are made from recycled glass, and the cabinets are made from pressed wheat. The paint has few volatile organic compounds that taint the air.
Its canopy has LED lights that use very little power and don't let light spill off the site, while Sola Tubes let natural light enter the store through several small openings — even in the restrooms.
There are even solar panels positioned on the roof out back, creating some power to help keep the beer cold and providing a digital readout of exactly how many pounds of carbon dioxide are being saved.
"It is an experiment," Jordan acknowledges. His thinking began with a simple idea: "Let's do something cool."
The other goal, besides sustainability, was to make the building fit into Summerville. That explains why the roof is black metal and not covered with plants.
"Black isn't necessarily a sustainable color, but I wanted to tie it in with some traditional Summerville architecture," Karpus says. "You don't want a gas station that looks like a space ship trying to take off."
Jordan also was responsible for the new Kangaroo station on S.C. Highway 61 (designed by Coast Architects and featured in this space a few months ago), but that project was more notable for its exuberant canopy and other efforts to make it pedestrian friendly.
This new station at 1597 Central Ave. also features an innovative canopy, one with two curved overlapping roofs that let some light through, and Karpus says the concept is to make it more inviting, to open it up to the building.
Jordan says these novel steps added about 10 percent to the station's cost — a price he had the freedom to pay because he developed the station himself rather than for a larger corporation.
He reckons that some of the station's environmental features may be attracting the customers, while others don't. He likens it to the quip by retail pioneer John Wanamaker, who once said he knows he wastes half his money on advertising — he just wasn't sure which half.
"I don't know what I could be wasting on this station," Jordan says, "but I'll tell you what. It's cool."
It appears to be paying off: The station is busier than he would have expected, and he attributes some of that to the design. Many have thanked him for doing something so nice, and he now plans to build others just like it in Goose Creek and near the fairgrounds in Ladson.
When even gas stations are being built with energy use and environmental impacts in mind, a new era indeed has begun to dawn.