A lot of 1970s-era office buildings are cold concrete boxes that seem to repel light. One of these buildings in Sunnyvale, Calif., was particularly dark, derelict, and impossible to rent. To make this building rentable, the developer became intrigued by the idea that a net zero energy renovation could be a sustainable and profitable option for this building.
Hillcrest Presbyterian Church in Seattle found itself in an awkward position. Its congregation had decreased, but remained in a large well-loved, but inefficient facility. At the same time, Westside School was about to lose its lease. A plan was born: the church would co-locate with another church and Westside would reinvent the facility as a school.
In 2012 the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) completed the construction of a Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) to demonstrate that it is possible to achieve net zero for a newly constructed house with conventional architecture, amenities, and size compared to homes in the surrounding area.
The Renwick Gallery was built in 1859, and in the 1960s Jacqueline Kennedy led a successful campaign to restore the building’s use as a museum. Fast forward to the 21st century and the building’s comprehensive two-year renovation program significantly reconfigured building mechanical space to address improved access for maintenance, while reducing energy and water use.
Modernizing Denver’s 1960s-era Byron G. Rogers Federal Building capitalized on a decision made in 1850 by the original city planners to lay out the downtown streets at 45 degrees to the four cardinal points. Without considering the solar orientation, the design respected the street orientation and the result placed the main buildings facing southwest. While this is great for watching the sun set over the mountains, the building becomes a giant solar heat collector.
Natural ventilation is usually not the first technique considered when designing a research lab. But the National University of Ireland, Galway, built a highly energy efficient lab at a low cost using passive strategies as the cornerstone.
For buildings to withstand sea-level rise, coastline erosion, and hurricanes, they need to be built to work with nature, not against it. The Brock Environmental Center is a living example of how to minimize impact on the environment while being resilient to future challenges. The triple net zero building is the latest to receive Living Building Challenge certification and is the first in the U.S. to receive a permit for drinking rainwater treated to federal standards.
As water resources grow increasingly taxed and scarce in communities across the U.S., an Atlanta university is turning to an unlikely resource to reduce its drinking water demand: the local sewer. The WaterHub at Emory University turns waste into a resource, recycling wastewater via an ecological treatment facility–the first of its kind in the U.S. Its sustainable treatment process sets an example of how adaptive technology can be used to meet water needs while reducing water costs.
For schools in drought-stricken areas, net zero energy and water strategies help future-proof against utility rate hikes. But, the price tag for net zero can be too high for school budgets. Fortunately, a library project at Sacred Heart School in northern California illustrates that it is possible to deliver a net zero energy building within a conventional budget while teaching kids about the value of conserving resources.
Conceived during the building slump of the Great Recession, this multi-tenant building in Madison, Wis., tells an important economic story: a developer-driven project can attain a high level of performance while remaining competitive and replicable in the market.