Fast Company: “McDonald’s new restaurant is 100% solar powered”

Fast Company takes a look at McDonald’s first Net-Zero Energy restaurant, designed by Ross Barney Architects.

“At a new McDonald’s restaurant that just opened at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida (with COVID-19 protection measures in place), solar panels covering the roof—and solar glass panels throughout the building—are designed to generate enough energy that the restaurant can run on 100% renewable power.

Running fully on renewable power, or reaching a goal of ‘net zero’ energy use, ‘is still sort of at the technological edge for buildings,’ says Carol Ross Barney, principal at Ross Barney Architects, the firm that led the design of the new restaurant. ‘But it’s definitely the future.’ This restaurant will serve as a lab for McDonald’s to test sustainability solutions that the company can later replicate elsewhere, including new kitchen equipment that can help shrink energy use. ‘For a restaurant, the biggest energy use is in cooking, especially in a high-volume restaurant like this one at Disney World,’ she says. The company will test new equipment for cooking burgers that can go on standby when there are fewer customers (older equipment had to keep running) and new coolers and freezers that are as efficient as possible.

In the net-zero-energy McDonald’s dining room, a passive ventilation system circulates the air to keeps the space comfortable without having the air conditioning on most of the time. ‘We were really interested in taking advantage of the climate in Florida, which is most of the year is fantastic,’ Ross Barney says. ‘You really don’t need to condition the air. You could sit outside, and in most cases inside, without any air conditioning or heating.’ Windows tied to the building’s energy system automatically open when the temperature and humidity are comfortable, and fans automatically turn on. A large outdoor eating porch, not a common feature for a fast-food restaurant, has as many seats outside as the indoor dining space. (The restaurant is currently offering only drive-thru and delivery options, but it will open for , carry out and dine-in service at a later date.) ‘We’re hoping that that’ll give people the impetus to eat outside and we’ll learn how not to use energy,’ she says.”