News Brief

Patagonia Grows into a New Building

The original Patagonia distribution center in Reno, Nevada, made extensive use of xeriscaping, which has grown in well and continues to require little irrigation.

Photo: Patagonia

Environmental Building News published a case study on the Patagonia distribution center in Reno, Nevada, ten years ago (see


Vol. 5, No. 5), the outdoor clothing and gear company was just moving into its new building, which was designed to facilitate future expansions. Recently, that planning paid off when Patagonia doubled the size of the facility with a 171,000 ft2 (52,000 m2) addition that it hopes will qualify for a Silver rating in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® Rating System. According to distribution center director and project manager Dave Abeloe, Patagonia’s business model enabled Tate, Snyder, Kinsey Architects of Las Vegas, Nevada, to follow expansion plans that were laid out ten years ago. “We were able to use planned cut-outs in the walls for new conveyor belts,” Abeloe offered as an example, “because the way we handle product has remained stable.”

While many of the technologies in the addition are similar to those used in the original, they make use of improvements in energy efficiency and design. Like the old building, the new building is heated with radiant panels located just below the ceiling, but new, 92% efficient, gas-fired boilers help achieve greater efficiency. Similarly, the new building improves upon the original night-flush cooling system with more fans and more vents, using ten exhaust fans to pull cool night air through 35 vents at a rate of 300,000 cubic feet per meter (142,000 l/s). The newer cooling system works so much better than the old one, Abeloe said, that employees have started taking their breaks in the cooler building—and they’ve taken their ping pong table with them.


EBN spoke with Abeloe ten years ago, he mentioned that the staff regretted not being able to use radiant heating in the office area of the original building. Delays in programming the offices meant that the radiant heat system could not be extended, so the area uses conventional rooftop heaters and air conditioners, which keep the space comfortable but are more expensive to run. Learning from this lesson, the designers configured the new space in time to take advantage of the more efficient radiant heating system throughout. This includes the 8,000 ft2 (2,400 m2) retail outlet, which is walled off from the warehouse part of the building and uses energy-efficient air conditioning in the interest of customer comfort.

Another improvement in the new building is a more sophisticated control system that monitors temperature, lighting, and carbon dioxide levels as well as water, gas, and electricity usage. Part of this system is automated lighting, with T-5 fluorescent lamps along the storage aisles individually activated by motion sensors, an improvement over the older system, said Abeloe, which used metal halide lamps that had to remain partially on throughout the day and which were activated in groups.

As we reported ten years ago, Patagonia expected the original building to use 812 MWh of electricity per year; with more employees and growth in the business, it has achieved an actual figure of just under 1,000 MWh. This figure compares well to the base case figure we quoted ten years ago of 2,023 MWh per year. Patagonia hopes to use only 713 MWh in the new addition, and given how well the original has performed and the lessons the company has learned, that expectation seems appropriate.

When designing the new addition, the company was once again thinking ten years into the future, designing a space that would be flexible enough to handle the company’s future growth.

Published August 29, 2006

Wendt, A. (2006, August 29). Patagonia Grows into a New Building. Retrieved from

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