REI 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 Goodyear, Ariz., about a 20 minute drive west of downtown Phoenix, the facility is intended to be one of the world’s most sustainable distribution centers and is expected to support more than 40 percent of the co-op’s sales.
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.
“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.
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. The system is expected to provide REI with 20 years of free energy and pay for itself in five years.
REI’s supply chain team, meanwhile, 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, said the co-op. The distribution center also features a non-evaporative cooling system to keep employees cool in the desert heat. The system is fully powered by renewable energy and reportedly saves millions of gallons of water every year.
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.
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.
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.
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