Greening the
Great Indoors

Engaging with and respecting the environment have been infused in REI’s business model throughout its rich history. One example of this environmental commitment is its “green” store prototype initiative. The first such store opened October 2007 in Boulder, Colo., and functions as a working laboratory for analyzing green building technologies and new retail concepts.

Beyond enhancing the retail shopping experience, the Boulder store is helping REI reduce its environmental footprint and serve as a resource to the community.

Gateway to the Outdoors

Designed by Gensler in close collaboration with REI, the renovated and expanded Boulder store reinforces the retail cooperative’s focus on being a gateway to the outdoors. The design concept and color palette draw inspiration from terrain in the natural world, a theme repeated throughout the exterior architecture and interior design elements.

Because REI is committed to sustainable practice, the 42,000-square-foot store achieved the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold rating and is part of REI’s involvement in the LEED for Retail: Commercial Interiors pilot program.

Making Values Visible

A top priority for REI’s prototype initiative was creating a store that reinforces REI’s values and environmental ethics.

“REI and Gensler worked together to create a store that embodies the values that make REI unique —   community involvement, environmental stewardship and a commitment to serve as a gateway to the outdoors,” said Dean Iwata, REI’s director of Store Development. “REI’s Boulder store builds on our more than 10 years of green building experience, and helps us pave the way for future design and construction decision making, including material selection and use of technology.”

Lighting the Way

REI’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint is evident in the store’s use of green materials, building techniques and energy efficient technology.  The store utilizes three solar strategies: passive solar, solar thermal and solar electric. For example, Solatubes, highly reflective, cylindrical skylights, channel daylight through the roof and into the store. The Boulder prototype also features a solar hot water system and centrally located glass atrium with building integrated photovoltaic cells, the first usage of this technology in a retail environment. The result of all these technologies is 20 percent less energy used than stores that meet industry standards.

Drawing on industry research and the firm’s extensive retail and workplace design experience, Gensler created an enhanced employee environment with access to daylight, improved air quality and resilient flooring —  features that contribute to healthy and more productive employees. Other sustainable highlights include flooring, perimeter walls, fixtures, displays, benches and tabletops made of such green materials as bamboo, recycled rubber and cork.

Engaging the Community

REI’s core purpose is to inspire, educate and outfit people for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. The Boulder prototype helps advance this mission through the prominent placement of a community center in the heart of the store. The nearly 2,000-square-foot space is a resource for the community to learn more about local opportunities and volunteer events that help protect shared natural spaces. At the same time, the center serves as a venue for events, presentations and demonstrations by REI or any of its many community partners.

Pinnacle Achievements

“REI challenged us to raise the bar in terms of how their store and brand experience better serves the community,” said Ted Jacob’s Gensler’s project design director. “The proof of Boulder’s success and REI’s leadership in environmental design is garnering national attention.”

Chain Store Age presented REI with its 2007 Retail Store of the Year Award for Environmental Sustainability. The award honors REI’s efforts to create a sustainable retail environment that is both well designed and environmentally sound.

In addition, the Association for Retail Environments recognized REI Boulder at the 2008 Retail Design Awards with two prizes: the “Green Recognition Award” and the “Outstanding Merit for Specialty Stores over 25,000.” The organization cited the store’s innovative environmental features and use of materials as key factors in bestowing these honors.

More in Store

The REI Boulder store is reaping the many benefits of its thoughtful re-design. Customers and employees speak positively of the new environment’s impact on their in-store experience, which in turn is helping the prototype see improved financial performance.

As proof that the prototype initiative remains a company priority, REI’s second prototype opened in Round Rock, Texas, in September 2008. This new store builds on the lessons of Boulder, continuing the co-op’s efforts to align its store operations with the overall mission. For more, see "REI Goes Eco-Friendly" from FOX 7 News in Austin.

Virginia Pettit with Aaron Smith—Gensler Firmwide Communications

Special Contributor
Jennifer Fink (Gensler—San Francisco)

Paul Brokering/Architect: pages 1, 4, 5.2, 5.3
Benny Chan/Fotoworks: pages 2, 3, 5.1, 6, 7

*For detailed information, please roll over imagery on individual story pages.

For more information on the REI Boulder store see:

Gensler Retail and Brand Design Contact
Ted Jacobs (Gensler—San Francisco):

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