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Specialty outdoor co-op REI announced a major milestone in its continued work to lead on sustainable operations. Its newest distribution center has achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification—the highest level in the U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system—making it the first distribution center in the U.S. to achieve both LEED Platinum certification and Net Zero Energy.

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The Goodyear, Ariz., distribution center utilizes tilt-up or concrete masonry walls and a panelized wood/steel roof.

REI designed the 400,000-sq.-ft. facility to conserve water and protect the delicate environment of the surrounding Arizona desert. The co-op chose a non-evaporative cooling system, which keeps temperatures consistent from floor to ceiling while saving millions of gallons of water annually. REI 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.

The co-op achieved Net Zero Energy by installing a 2.2-MW 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 system was modeled to ensure that it would produce enough energy on-site, while still allowing for skylights to provide natural light at workstations throughout the building.

REI and its partners also 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. 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.

To encourage further innovatsion, 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,” says 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.”