REI’s New Distribution Center Designed to be Net Zero Energy and LEED Platinum

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Facility’s solar system nearly doubles REI’s current solar production and will provide co-op with 20 years of free energy

REI's new distribution center is designed to be one of the most sustainable buildings of its kind.

We believe that investing in sustainability is not only good for people, places and the planet, but it’s also a smart business decision that creates measurable value.

REI, the specialty outdoor co-op, has designed its new distribution center to be Net Zero Energy and is pursuing LEED Platinum—the highest level in the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) rating system. Situated in the Arizona desert, the facility is intended to be one of the world’s most sustainable distribution centers. To encourage further innovation, REI is taking an unusual approach and will make the design information of this facility available to the public, so that others can advance the parameters of sustainable design.

REI is driving sustainability and efficiency at its new distribution center in several new ways:

  • The facility’s 2.2 megawatt solar system produces renewable energy on-site, enough to power the entire facility annually. The system is expected to provide REI with 20 years of free energy and pay for itself in five years.
  • REI and its partners have designed the industry’s first omni-channel one-touch fulfillment system, enabling one person to process items eight times faster than the typical distribution center, meaning that outdoor enthusiasts will get their gear faster.
  • Despite being in the middle of a desert, the distribution center will help restore the nearby Verde River, enhancing water flows and recreation access. This project has led the USGBC to recognize Water Restoration Certificates for LEED points.
  • The distribution center features a non-evaporative cooling system to keep employees cool in the desert heat. The system is fully powered by renewable energy and saves millions of gallons of water every year.

“We are choosing to open-source the design of this distribution center because we believe it is a stake in the ground for green building and can change how companies think about the impact that operations have on the environment—something we could not have achieved without our partners,” said Rick Bingle, REI’s vice president of Supply Chain. “We love the outdoors, so we approached this project as an opportunity to find new ways to reduce our use of natural resources while also making a positive, lasting impact on local outdoor places. We believe that investing in sustainability is not only good for people, places and the planet, but it’s also a smart business decision that creates measurable value. We think this project shows that we can push the boundaries of what’s possible.”

The co-op achieved Net Zero Energy by installing a 2.2 megawatt solar array on the roof that produces enough energy to power the entire facility—equivalent to powering 390 homes for one year. The size of the solar array was modeled to ensure the system would produce enough energy on-site, while still allowing for skylights to provide natural light at workstations throughout the building.

REI set out to show how advanced technology and sustainability can co-exist. Its supply chain team collaborated with key partners to create the industry’s first omni-channel one-touch fulfillment system. This system combines retail and customer orders at each workstation, enabling one person to process items eight times faster than the typical distribution center. The system is fully powered by renewable energy and will support more than 40 percent of the co-op’s sales—reaching approximately 36 percent of customers and 41 percent of the total retail volume.

Notes to editors

Designing a Great Place to Work
REI prioritized employee comfort when designing this building. In addition to the cooling system, the facility features an on-site gym, bike storage, physical therapist and cafe to support the healthy, active lifestyles of employees. Employees can also control their own microclimate through innovative hyperchairs, allowing employees to heat or cool individual office chairs for more comfort while using less energy.

Water Conservation
REI designed this facility to conserve water and protect the delicate environment of the surrounding Arizona desert. REI chose a non-evaporative cooling system, which keeps temperatures consistent from floor to ceiling while saving millions of gallons of water annually. The co-op also invested in an innovative restoration project at the Verde River, high in the Phoenix watershed.

In partnership with Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) and The Nature Conservancy of Arizona, the project will help modernize irrigation infrastructure to conserve water and enhance flows for recreation and wildlife, protect farmland and limit development and water extraction in sensitive areas, remove invasive plants to restore river habitat, and enhance recreation access at key sites along the river. USGBC awarded REI with two LEED points for the pilot project and now recognizes Water Restoration Certificates, which will ultimately restore more natural water systems, wetlands and damaged watersheds.

LEED Certification
REI is pursuing LEED Platinum certification for this building. The USGBC’s LEED green building program is the preeminent program for the design, construction, maintenance and operations of high-performance green building. REI currently has six LEED certified facilities—with a combined total size of more than 700,000 square feet. The co-op’s developer is also pursuing LEED certification for the building that will house REI’s new flagship store in Washington, D.C.

REI’s distribution center was designed by Butler Design Group in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Institute, who led a three-day design session early in the process to think creatively about how to achieve REI’s ambitious sustainability and technology goals. The developer and owner advocate was Merit Partners, Inc. and the builder was The Renaissance Companies. Technology design and implementation was led by DMW&H and KNAPP, and the LEED certification was led by CBRE. EDF Climate Corps were involved early in the process to determine the financial feasibility of the project.

The facility joins REI distribution centers in Sumner, Wash., and Bedford, Penn. Additional information on REI’s sustainability efforts is available at http://www.rei.com/stewardship.

About REI
REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 6 million active members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 146 stores in 35 states. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI.com/REI-Garage or the free REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. You can take the trip of a lifetime with REI Adventures, a global leader in active adventure travel that runs 150 custom-designed itineraries on every continent. REI’s Outdoor School is run by professionally-trained, expert-instructors who teach beginner- to advanced-level courses about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to–and steward–the outdoor places that inspire us.

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Mike Ferris
Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)
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