Last year, an Arizona company, Engenuity Systems Inc., is supplying McDonald’s with technology that will cut costs, save energy, and slash carbon emissions by ensuring that, among other systems, lighting operates at optimal efficiency.  More recently, on February 17, 2009, South Korean start-up SLD said it had signed a contract with McDonald’s to provide light-emitting-diode (LED) products to the company’s U.S. branches for the next five years.

McDonald’s has 32,000 locations and spends $1.5 billion (USD) on energy each year. 

In August 2008, McDonald’s opened its first targeted LEED®-certified restaurant in Chicago. The new fast food eatery is located at 4158 S. Ashland Avenue. 

4158 S. AshlandThe site was home to an older, corporate-owned McDonald’s which was torn down to make way for the new, greener establishment. McDonald’s calls the new site a “learning lab,” intended to help the company’s design team understand how new green technologies can be employed in both new restaurants and existing ones. The 24-hour eco McDonald’s includes systems that collect data continuously, giving the design team a large volume of data for comparative analysis for future sites.  Designers hope the site will earn LEED®-Gold certification. The project was the first fast-food restaurant to be granted a permit under the City of Chicago Green Permit Program.

The restaurant’s exterior signage is constructed around energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs), just the second time such lighting has been used on a McDonald’s. By using signage with LEDs rather than traditional sign lighting, McDonald’s will consume less energy – perhaps as much as 50% less energy. The LEDs will last ten to twenty times longer than the average incandescent light bulb. 

Solartube skylights are visible throughout the restaurant to take advantage of natural light and reduce energy use. The indoor artificial lighting is controlled by a sophisticated system that adjusts the foot-candle illumination based on light entering through the skylights. Lighting controls will also sense and adjust energy use in lavatories and support designs.