Whether it’s LED lights that look like the original Edison bulb or tile floors made from crushed sinks and toilets, every product in the new TreeHouse store in Dallas has a story.
The home improvement store opened Friday at 8021 Walnut Hill Lane in Dallas as the world’s first energy positive retail store. The 35,000-square-foot space is powered by solar panels, stores electricity on-site using batteries, and actually returns excess power onto the grid on sunny days.
The store’s design is a showcase for what’s possible with today’s sustainable products while shattering common stereotypes.
“There’s no conflict between good design, high functionality, and sustainable healthy materials,” CEO Jason Ballard said as he led a tour Thursday. “You don’t have to compromise beauty and function to get health and sustainability. This has to become normal or we’re in big trouble.”
CHANGING HOME IMPROVEMENT
The store’s design evokes a large house with the main roof angled toward the south to maximize the energy harvested from the sun. The north facing facade has windows to let in natural light without letting in any direct sun. And, there are large fans throughout to minimize the use of electricity.
It’s the second location for TreeHouse, which opened first in Austin in 2011. The Dallas location has 35 employees.
“You don’t have to compromise beauty and function to get health and sustainability.”
TreeHouse offers many of the same home improvement products that its big box store competitors sell, but they have to meet certain criteria, first.
TreeHouse’s product specialists search the world looking for environmentally friendly, sustainable, and healthy home improvement items. They ask a lot of questions about how the product is made and what steps are taken to reduce energy and water consumption during the manufacturing process.
Ballard makes no bones about the fact that he wants to start a revolution in the home improvement industry. He likens it to how Whole Foods, another Austin company, has changed the grocery industry.
Eight of the top 10 products TreeHouse sells didn’t exist when Ballard founded the company.
“Think about all the companies that wouldn’t exist if Whole Foods didn’t exist,” he said. “I didn’t invent any of this stuff. I create a platform to host it and it creates an ecosystem where other businesses can flourish.”
There’s a kitchen and bathroom redesign section, complete with a live kitchen to demonstrate how new washing machines and ovens can save water and energy.
There’s tile available made from recycled crushed glass and porcelain. The carpet is also recycled and can be placed in individual tiles. All the cabinets, wood flooring, and other products are made with the lowest amount of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, as possible.
“I didn’t invent any of this stuff. I create a platform to host it and it creates an ecosystem where other businesses can flourish.”
The paint section sells Dunn-Edwards Paints that are non-toxic and don’t affect indoor air quality. As a demonstration, the TreeHouse store itself had just been painted earlier this week, but there was no smell. The majority of the paint is water based. Even the oil-based paints encapsulate the oil inside water molecules so they can be cleaned without harsh thinners.
“We think people should not sell you poison with a smile on their face,” Ballard said. “Dunn-Edwards has wicked smart chemists.”
BECOMING THE HARBORER OF ENERGY
TreeHouse built a home in the middle of the store to showcase how solar panels, skylights, solar tubes, ceiling fans, insulation, and smart home technology can all work together.
TreeHouse sells SunPower brand solar panels that produce 320 to 360 watts per panel, the most efficient in the industry.
The company will add Tesla Powerwall 2 to its inventory when it comes out later this year. The sleek battery pack can be mounted to the exterior of the house and will store solar energy produced by solar panels during the day. The batteries also provide peace of mind during severe weather or other blackouts.
“Tesla developed the world’s best batteries while working on their cars,” Ballard said. “They’re very safe, very high performing with a 10 to 20 year lifespan so they last as long any appliance in the home. I think it will become more and more normal for people to own their own energy production and storage.”
Tesla typically controls the sale of its products rather than going through retail stores, so TreeHouse is an exception. Ballard said he’s hopeful that the relationship with Tesla could grow in the future to include solar shingles and a Supercharger station, which would be a first for Dallas.
“That’s a relationship we’re negotiating between our landlord, Tesla, and ourselves,” Ballard said of the Supercharger. “I believe it will deliver this summer, but that’s not inked.”
“I think it will become more and more normal for people to own their own energy production and storage.”
Arlington partnered with Tesla to open a Supercharger station near Globe Life Park last month.
TreeHouse also has a large outdoor section with native Texas plants, rain capture barrels, and composting drums.
The store will have a horticulturalist and a landscape architect on staff. If demand warrants it, TreeHouse could even do landscape installations in the future.
They also have a limited selection of tools including power tools.
Just as this store opens, TreeHouse is fast at work on a location in Plano that could open this fall. Ballard said they are working with city officials now on the design, which would radically retrofit an existing building next to Whole Foods at Preston Road and Park Boulevard.
Welcome to TreeHouse. Photos by Chase Mardis.
The Performance House
The Performance Lab
Tile and Wood