REI's New DC is Eight Times Faster, Energy Self-Sufficient

REI has designed its new distribution center to be both energy and workflow efficient. The DC, situated in the Arizona desert, is a net-zero energy facility and will provide to co-op retailer with 20 years of free energy. In addition, to encourage further clean-energy innovation, REI is taking an unusual approach, making 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. "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."

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 omnichannel one-touch fulfillment system, enabling one person to process items eight times faster than the typical distribution center.
  • Despite being in the middle of a desert, the distribution center will help restore the nearby Verde River, enhancing water flows and recreation access.
  • 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.

REI's omnichannel one-touch fulfillment 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% of the co-op's sales—reaching approximately 36% of customers and 41% of the total retail volume.

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.
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