The ‘Golden Arches’ are going green in South America

McDonald’s has taken the lead in organic restaurants in Latin America with the construction of three “green buildings” on their premises in Brazil, Costa Rica and Argentina. In this sense, it seems difficult to relate fast food restaurants with eco-friendly as they are based on consumer products which are a concept that typically does not agree with the ideas of recycling. However, during the last five years, Arcos Dorados, licensee of McDonald’s restaurants in Latin America, has become a pioneer in organic fast food restaurants.

This concept is not new to McDonald’s, which already has two restaurants of this kind in the US and several others in Europe. But for Latin Americans, 2008 heralded the first of these restaurants in São Paulo, and now two more have been opened in Costa Rica and Argentina.

They call themselves “sustainable restaurants” and are a combination of design, materials recycling and clean energy. All three restaurants have a rainwater harvesting tank that collects rainwater and sends it to a natural filter to be reused in toilets, the irrigation of green areas and the cleaning of parking lots. The result, in comparison with other restaurants, it is a savings of 40% water.

Moreover, these buildings have intelligent lighting control, which is activated by outdoor lighting conditions -as well as air conditioning and high efficiency heating.
Similarly, there are different methods of generating energy, like solar panels, saving 14% of electricity within the premises. The restaurant located in Pilar, Argentina, even has a 30m high wind turbine that is able to power the parking lot lighting.

In addition to the above technology, facilities are equipped with high-grade insulation in ceilings and walls, thus avoiding considerable heat loss. Moreover, the restaurants incorporate a 3M film on windows for solar filtering, avoiding overheating in areas close to the glass exterior. As large windows are characteristic of these establishments and are also useful in creating a sense of connection to the outdoor environment, customers and McDonald’s consider them important features.

The concept is also accompanied by an environmental awareness campaign, present in the decor, linens, pictures and pamphlets within establishments, whose role is to encourage people with responsibility for the environment.

These restaurants have been built to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, which includes the incorporation of sustainable practices and technologies in the construction and operation of their buildings. The certification even goes so far as to certify all the building materials used are highly monitored to ensure they do not affect the environment and contain recycled material.

“The restaurant is organic from site selection, display of its concept, design, to its architecture and construction,” said Tatiana Rodriguez, civil engineer and architect who is also development manager of McDonald’s Costa Rica.

This is indeed a global concept, which unites architecture technology with ecology to achieve the establishment of spaces that preserve the environment while educating. Now served hot in Latin America.

Veronica can be reached at

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