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.