LEED Certification and 140 Beers: I Visit the Yard House

by Josh Pringle, Marketing Director, CO2Meter.com

I had the privilege of touring the recently opened Yard House Restaurant in Orlando this month. If you haven’t been to a Yard House yet, find the closest one and make a plan to go.

Why the Yard House? 140 varieties of beer on tap at the same time. And no, you can’t order one of everything.

The Yard House is the most recent acquisition of the Darden Restaurant group, most famous for Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, and the Capital Grill. Minutes from the Darden corporate offices the Yard House on International Drive in Orlando is the second free-standing location in the forty-restaurant chain.

While the food, atmosphere, and beer selection will stand out for the average customer, there are several behind the scenes design features that make the Yard House unique. And thanks to the US Green Building Council's Central Florida Chapter I, along with 75 of my USGBC colleagues, got a unique peek behind the scenes at how the new building was designed from the ground up with energy efficiency in mind.

The first thing that stands out is the modern feel of the façade. It is actually concrete cast in place. The walls use lots of windows drawing in the outside light.

The internal workings of the facility are the stars though. Reduced hot water usage, controlled garbage handling, and well-planned electrical panel placement save Darden millions.

Let’s get to the good stuff though – the beer selection. Did I mention that the Yard House has 140 beers on tap? The unique, intricate design of the draft system is amazing. Start with the fact that the keg cooler is on the second floor. A small utility elevator was put in to assist delivery crews with delivering and rotating the beers on tap. Each tap line is combined into trunk lines of ten that gravity feed the tap handles at the bar. All the lines are kept chilled so that no beer ever rises above its desired temperature.

In addition, when each keg is fully discharged the system automatically flushes the line with water to remove any impurities in the line also reducing wasted, foamy beer from the next keg. The lines also have a small device that constantly “rattles” the line while in use to ensure sediment and bacteria aren’t collecting on the inside of the lines. While these innovations make your beer taste better from Darden’s perspective, it reduces waste and overhead.

Darden has applied for LEED Silver certification for the Yard House in Orlando. One Darden official commented that, “we take a different approach than most – we figure out what we need to do to make a restaurant enjoyable, safe, and profitable for the community and for Darden. Then we figure out if we can apply for the tax abatement or get a credit for LEED.” That’s a unique way of looking at things that I am sure was discussed over a couple of pints at a Yard House after work.

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