REI's net zero distribution center - Smart Energy Decisions

April 1, 2019 - By Better Buildings

REI's net zero distribution center

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has recognized Better Buildings Alliance partner REI for the energy productivity advances made in its Arizona distribution center located in Goodyear, Arizona. Supporting 40% of the co-op’s stores and employing more than 200 people, the center has achieved an annual energy savings of 18% and annual cost savings of $170,000 from the baseline in the first two years of operation.  

How was this accomplished?

REI’s LEED® Platinum distribution center in Goodyear, Arizona, which opened in July 2016, was designed to be a zero-energy facility. The 400,000 square-foot facility is located on 34 acres outside of Phoenix. It employs more than 200 people and supports more than 40 percent of the co-op’s sales.

In 2018, REI's distribution center achieved an annual energy savings of 18% and annual cost savings of $170,000 from the baseline. Additional energy and cost savings are expected for 2019 as a result of retro-commissioning work completed in late 2018.

The Rocky Mountain Institute led a three-day design session early in the process, and Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps fellows helped determine the financial feasibility of the project. To encourage further innovation, REI is making the design information of the facility available to the public, so that others can learn from and leverage REI’s sustainable design advances.

REI set a clear expectation of zero energy for all project stakeholders, which pushed the team to find innovative approaches to save energy and to collaborate more closely. It also set high expectations for subcontractors to right-size equipment.

To achieve its goals, the following renewable energy, energy efficiency, and water efficiency solutions were implemented:

  • A 2.2-megawatt solar system was installed, which produces enough renewable energy on-site to power 390 homes for a year. It is expected to power the entire facility, bringing REI's overall energy savings to 101.6% and providing REI with the equivalent of 20 years of free energy. The size of the solar array was modeled to allow for skylights to provide natural light at workstations throughout the building.
  • A solar array covers 280,000 square feet of roof space, and the city of Goodyear's power station is located adjacent to the facility, which helps reduce energy loss through transmission. The public electric grid acts as a "continuous battery," with power being sent to the grid during the day and pulled back at night. REI plans to store power onsite using banks of batteries in the future.
  • The distribution center also features a non-evaporative cooling system which helps reduce the number of roof-top-units needed down to just four units, as opposed to the roughly 100 that would typically be required in a desert environment. This saves millions of gallons of water every year, and is helped by the fact that REI uses fans to stir the air within the building to reduce the temperature differential between floor and ceiling to just a few degrees.
  • REI also prioritized employee comfort when designing this building. Employees can control their own microclimate through innovative hyperchairs, which incorporate individual fans and heating elements, allowing them to heat or cool individual office chairs. This increases comfort while using less overall energy by allowing set points to be higher than they otherwise would be. In the future, REI hopes to connect these chairs to the EMIS system, which can adjust responsively to the collective needs of the staff.
  • The REI facility is the industry’s first omni-channel 1-touch fulfillment system, which enables one person to process items eight times faster than at a typical distribution center by using robotic shuttles to move products. In partnership with Bonneville Environmental Foundation and The Nature Conservancy of Arizona, REI has supported modernization of irrigation infrastructure to conserve water and enhance flows for recreation and wildlife, protect farmland and limit development and water extraction in sensitive areas, as well as removal of invasive plants to restore river habitat.


Better Buildings is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy designed to drive leadership in energy innovation. Through Better Buildings, DOE partners with leaders in the public and private sectors to make the nation’s homes, commercial buildings and industrial plants more energy efficient by accelerating investment and sharing of successful best practices. For more information, click here.


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