URBN's Adaptive Reuse Building Strategy

Impact November 02, 2022

The most sustainable building is one that has already been built. When creating both our global and EU headquarters, the URBN team focused on creatively reimaging existing buildings, infrastructure, and materials—all a part of our adaptive reuse design strategy. Our Home Office at the Philadelphia Navy Yard is a collection of old US Navy buildings that have been transformed into offices, meeting spaces, photo studios, a café, a coffee shop, gym, and even a dog park. The majority of the demolition debris from our renovation was kept on site and reused in building our campus. Building concrete was broken up to become steppingstones in our cherry tree garden. The railing that hugs our dry dock is comprised of rebuild and repositioned materials found onsite—what we call “creative relocation.” Chunks of concrete, asphalt, and brick became mulch for our hedgerows. Old doors were collaged together to form walls, and timbers found onsite now form a central staircase that connects all three levels of our shared services building.

In 2012, we installed a Bloom Energy system consisting of stacked fuel cells that convert chemical energy from natural gas and water into electricity. As of March 2022, the lifetime energy generated by these fuel cells was 42,309 MWh. By switching to Bloom Energy, we have saved the equivalent of removing 2,233 cars from the road for one year and have kept nearly 22MM lbs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Equally as impressive is the building of our European HQ in London, UK. A former brewery, our offices on Brick Lane feature original flooring—including an old basketball court—and desks made from reclaimed wood.

When we built our Fulfillment Center in Gap, Pennsylvania, we included one of the largest single rooftop installations in the US. Installed on October 25, 2014, it has 13,464 modules spanning across a 22-acre roof and is capable of exporting 1.0MW of A/C power. The net effect is just over 22 million kilowatts per hour (kWh) of saved electrical consumption each year. As of March 2022, the lifetime generation of this solar array was 31,076 MWh— the equivalent of 500,000 trees planted, 15,000,000 gallons of water saved, and 37,000,000 lbs of CO2 kept from entering our atmosphere. We have motion sensing LED lighting in four of our six North American fulfilment centers to improve energy efficiency, with retrofitting projects currently underway for our remaining facilities. Our new Kansas City Omnichannel Fulfilment Center, to be completed in 2023, will feature some of the most advanced infrastructure in our supply chain. In Kansas City, we will leverage several automated processes designed to be more efficient and better for the environment, including Automated Material Handling Equipment that features energy-saving automatic shutdowns for unused components and energy management active recovery systems.