With over 1,500 restaurants, Darden's physical footprint is one of the most significant ways we impact the environment. Incorporating environmental considerations into how we develop and remodel is one of the central ways Darden is putting sustainability into practice. It's also key to enhancing the operational efficiency of our restaurants and an essential part of our strategy for achieving our "15x15 over Zero" goals.
In 2009 we launched a system-wide sustainable restaurant design initiative using U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC's) LEED standard. We developed new building prototypes for our three largest brands and one specialty brand that will use less energy, meet stringent water conservation standards and use recycled materials in their construction.
By the end of FY2012, 13 newly-built Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants had either received or were in pursuit of LEED certification. Our goal was to use each of those restaurants as a learning lab to build our knowledge and experience with sustainable design going forward.
Since our LEED gold-certified Restaurant Support Center opened in FY2009, we have exceeded the 16% energy efficiency improvement required by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers), exceeding the LEED certification requirement. We are using 31% less energy per square foot compared to our former corporate headquarters.
We kicked off major remodeling efforts for existing Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants designed to incorporate sustainable design best practices wherever possible. For example, we are replacing most "front of house" lighting with LED light bulbs and "back of house" lighting with compact florescent bulbs, both of which use significantly less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. We are also installing new, "smarter" energy management systems, using 100% recycled carpet and other recycled materials, using sustainably harvested wood, installing low-flow water nozzles and faucets, implementing less water-intensive landscaping and working to source materials locally whenever possible.
At the heart of our sustainability efforts are Safety & Sustainability Teams, groups of employees in each restaurant who implement programs to reduce waste and energy and water usage. They are also responsible for many of the ideas we have used to improve sustainability at our restaurants. Last spring, almost 12,000 employees responded to our first Sustainability Survey, providing us invaluable feedback about the effectiveness of our sustainability efforts and opportunities for improvement.