Arizona, United States (Cronkite) – A climate-controlled office chair for workers, a rooftop solar-power array and an air-conditioning system that saves one million gallons of water per year are some environmentally savvy methods at REI’s Goodyear warehouse, its leaders said.
The outdoor goods company is crowing about gaining LEED Platinum Certification, the sustainable-building equivalent to winning an Academy Award. LEED’s mission is to make sustainability the norm in American design.
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of several features that could one day come to a workplace, store or school near you:
Adjust the temperature of your office chair
Office workers can use their smartphone to wirelessly adjust a chair’s temperature, ending the eternal fight over the office thermostat. (Or control the chair’s temperature the good old-fashioned way: manually.) Because the room temperature is consistent, it reduces energy use, said Bill Best, an REI executive.
Solar panels line roof
Turn down the fluorescent-lights glare: Skylights sandwiched between rows of roof-top solar panels allow Arizona’s abundant natural light to filter to workers on the floor below. About 280,000 square feet of solar panels – nearly the size of five football fields – power the facility. The system will pay for itself in five years and provide renewable energy for at least 20 years, according to a company statement.
Conveyor belts sense motion
Backpacks, water bottles, kayaks and other outdoor products begin their journey to customers in the Southwest on conveyor belts with built-in motion sensors. The belts automatically shut off when they are empty. They are equipped with 24-volt motors, lower than the average motor, further reducing energy use, Best said.
Robots, plus human touch gets product out the door
Robots do most of the distribution work in the warehouse. And robots aren’t afraid of the dark. The machines can work with or without light. Part of the system calls for a human to touch a product just once before it gets out the door. One worker can process items eight times faster than in the average distribution center, REI said.
Flowing water cools warehouse floor to ceiling
Water cooling towers draw air from the floor and propel it to the ceiling in a constant loop, creating a regular air flow to cool workers. Instead of the air heating as it rises, as it does in just about any conference room, the warehouse maintains a floor-to-ceiling temperature of about 76 degrees. Also, the water system is self-contained, saving one millions of gallons of water every year, Best said.