You can often gauge the quality of a mechanic by taking a close look inside his or her garage. A clean shop is the sign of an organized, patient technician who will treat you fairly and take good care of your investment. A dirty one, well, could promise to take you for a ride. And the old grease monkey’s adage, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later,” is starting to take on a new socially conscious twist with the emergence of a concept called the “green” garage, where the harsh solvents, oil stains, slippery wrenches and dirty rags are going out in favor of spotless floors, sunlit walls, energy efficient ventilation systems, recycled shop materials and laptop computers.
The drive to seek alternative energy and conserve fuel is a driving force behind mainstream and industrial shops alike and provides a unique glimpse into the future. In San Francisco, Carolyn Coquillette, owner and lead technician of the Luscious Garage, designed her spotless shop around servicing microchip-heavy hybrids, and that’s why it looks more like a computer lab than a grease pit. But alternative power is not just for your Toyota Prius: As more construction machines change, so, too, will their maintenance needs.
Some people also have embraced the idea as a way to participate in the sustainability movement. In Los Angeles, comedian and car-collector Jay Leno trimmed down his footprint by outfitting his Big Dog Garage with a 54-kW solar roof, biodegradable parts washer and a water-jet cutter. “I don’t think anybody cares how much electricity you use, as long as you’re making it yourself,” he quips.
The construction industry is starting to play its own part and attract a new generation of technical talent by greening its own garages. A Caterpillar dealer near Las Vegas is leading the way with its new $120-million headquarters, aimed at making the business of repairing heavy equipment a little more pleasing to mechanics, clients and society as a whole. Cashman Equipment, the 78-yearold dealer that supplied yellow iron to Hoover Dam, says the effort will pay for itself in just a few years. In effect, it is paying now so it won’t have to pay more later. What’s inside all of our “garages” says a lot about us as a people, and as an industry.
Some might argue that construction shops have been green for years. After all, heavy equipment is regularly rebuilt many times over. Talk about recycling. But as with anything industrial, this legacy can come with serious environmental hazards that need to be assessed and mitigated. Thanks to some forward thinking, good design and number crunching, Cashman’s green garage legacy will live on for years, just like the iconic water resource infrastructure it helped build during the Great Depression.