Edward Mazria of Architecture 2030 to close Getting to Zero National Forum

Portrait of Ed Mazria, Architecture2030Edward Mazria has been a game-changer in the world of green building. He founded Architecture 2030 in 2002 with the mission to change the paradigm of the building sector from buildings being one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions to buildings serving as one solution to our current carbon crisis.

The 2030 Challenge is a result of the work done by Mazria, and was adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2006 and the federal government in 2007.  2030 districts have been planned in many cities across the country, working toward the common goal of increasing energy efficiency and decreasing greenhouse gasses. Because of the global economy, the 2030 goals and districts have a far-reaching impact, influencing multinational corporations to implement proven techniques and technologies into new construction on a global scale.

Mazria’s commitment to energy-efficiency and fossil fuel reduction make him a great addition to the speaker line-up for the Getting to Zero National Forum. Be sure not to miss his presentation during the last session “Moving Zero Net Energy to the Mainstream” on Sept. 18 at 10:45 a.m. He will, no doubt, leave attendees inspired and ready to bring ZNE to their communities and projects.

Tour the National Renewable Energy Laboratory facilities as part of the Getting to Zero National Forum

NREL Research Support FacilityWill you be joining us for the Getting to Zero National Forum?
Are you interested in a tour of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory?

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, located on NREL’s South Table Mountain Campus. It was designed to accelerate renewable-energy process and manufacturing research for both near-term and next-generation technologies and to reduce the time delays associated with transferring technology to industry. The building itself is an education in energy efficient technology and techniques; including heating and cooling, lighting, insulation, controls and renewable energy resource integration.

At 1:30 on Wednesday September 18, after the Forum adjourns, those interested Getting to Zero National Forum participants can join an hour and a half group tour of the NREL facilities.

Contact Shanti Pless at Shanti.Pless@nrel.gov, to add your name to the list. Please have your ID available on-site.

Non-US citizens need to fill out paperwork to be allowed on-site, please contact Shanti to get the forms filled out beforehand.

Rethinking the Incremental Cost Equation

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The Delta, New York City’s first ZNE building | courtesy of Voltaic Solaire

By Mike Rovito, Energy & Resource Solutions, Inc.

New Buildings Institute (NBI) has published empirical and modeled studies that show high-performance nonresidential buildings – basically, those that use less than 50 kBtu/sf/yr – can be built at little to no premium. And this isn’t just buildings in the sunbelt. NYSERDA, with consultant Energy & Resource Solutions (ERS), examined the costs of dozens of high-performance construction projects in New York state and like-climates and found that the average price was actually slightly lower than the RS Means construction cost  estimate for buildings in their respective locale. In an industry that tends to target incremental performance for incremental cost, this sort of finding is deeply counterintuitive. How is it even possible?

The short answer: load-reducing design. That means designing the building from the ground up with the goal of minimizing the amount of heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation necessary to make the building comfortable and workable. Allowing this mentality to permeate the fundamentals of construction – the layout and orientation of the building, the shape and size of windows, the arrangement of interior spaces – leads to down-sized mechanical systems and less demand from lighting equipment. This makes the building cheaper to build and operate. Many load-reducing features, such as orienting the building to maximize daylighting and minimize thermal fluxes, carry no cost at all. Other features like light shelves or radiative barriers have an upfront cost that is more than offset by the downstream construction savings wrung from installing smaller equipment. And some load-reducing features actually cost less to begin with; removing glass curtain walls comes to mind. In each of these cases the result is an energy efficiency measure that has negative incremental costs.

Usually when something costs less and delivers better performance it catches on pretty fast in the marketplace. So what’s the story with high-performance building approaches like net zero? Research from NYSERDA and ERS research suggests that the same load-reducing design features that keep these buildings from costing a fortune also keep them from being built in great numbers. When you expand the analysis beyond the two dimensions of cost and energy use to include the third-dimension of non-energy performance, the answer becomes clearer. By impacting fundamental components of construction like layouts, windows and orientation, load-reducing design changes the way buildings are built and used. The design process is different and the result is a building that is different functionally, aesthetically and comfort-wise. Different doesn’t necessarily mean worse, but it does mean change.  People – particularly those who are investing millions of dollars – tend to shy away from experimentation.

By proliferating an understanding of load-reducing design features, we in the efficiency community can demystify their impact on non-energy performance. Program administrators can accelerate the adoption of high-performance buildings by targeting those most willing to take the leap and loudly touting their success. Over time, with high-performance building success stories broadcast with greater and greater frequency, these design features will be more common and seem less, well, different!

ZNE Building Spotlight: DPR Construction, San Diego & Phoenix

DPR161DPR Construction (DPR), a national technical builder specializing in highly complex and sustainable projects, showcases its work at the firm’s renovated San Diego offices. The 24,000 square-foot space, which opened in 2010, is a zero-net energy building meaning it consumes only as much energy as can be produced onsite over the course of a year.

Taking advantage of San Diego’s mild climate, the DPR Construction office building was designed to use cross and stack ventilation strategies to passively ventilate and cool the open office area. By installing operable windows at the north curtain wall and roof monitors at the south side, the number of hours their HVAC system is used was reduced by 79% a year. DPR’s concept of “bringing the outside in” was a key component to reducing the building’s energy consumption. Removing suspended ceilings, adding roof monitors, and installing Solatube skylights over the work stations give all employees access to natural daylight and reduces their estimated lighting energy consumption by 53% or 29,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually.

To reach DPR’s zero net Electricityproductionenergy goal, a roof-mounted 64 kw-AC photovoltaic (PV) panel system was installed. This system generates enough renewable energy to offset their estimated annual energy consumption. According to their online dashboard, DPR’s total annual energy use for 2011 is about 100,000 kWh offset by 118,000 kwh generated through solar PV’s.

DPR has since renovated a second office space, a 16,533-square-foot building is located in Phoenix’s Discovery Triangle, which was recently certified as ZNE by the Living Building Challenge.

“Net-zero is possible, even in one of the most extreme climates in the country,” said Dave Elrod, Regional Manager, DPR Construction. “We purposely chose a building that was nearing the end of its intended lifecycle in a redeveloping area to show our commitment to Phoenix and to demonstrate the impact revitalization can have on an urban environment. This building is another proof point of our ability to walk the walk of sustainability. Our Phoenix office will be a ‘living lab’ where anyone can see firsthand how our sustainable technologies work together in real life,” he said.

Learn more about the DPR buildings and other zero net energy buildings at the upcoming Getting to Zero National Forum, Sept. 17-18 in Denver.

Learning and Living Zero Energy: The Education Sector Leads the Way

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West Village at UC Davis in California takes the idea of zero-net energy beyond the classroom and into a community.

by Jonathan Rowe, Zero Energy Buildings Program Manager, Autodesk Sustainability Solutions

Ever since NREL proved with its Colorado headquarters that zero-energy buildings (ZEBs) are achievable at scales far beyond an early set of small demonstration projects, a distinct trend has ensued to “go big.”  It’s especially pronounced in the education sector, where schools and universities—some of the best ZEB candidates around—capture nearly 30% of the documented ZEBs and the majority of Emerging ZEB square footage in NBI’s Getting to Zero 2012 Status Update.  Last month, the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, broke ground on a whopping 169,000 square feet of new space for MLK Junior Elementary, where a new generation of young minds will identify with high performance building through experiential interaction.  When college comes around, they may even attend one of the several universities attracting talent by touting a showcase ZEB.  These budding projects can serve as powerful examples showing today’s industry practitioners and tomorrow’s leaders how to learn, teach, design, deliver and live net zero.

With 673 signatories, the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment underscores the magnitude of buy-in from the higher education sector for targeting carbon neutrality in the coming decades.  A growing number of university ZEBs are initial, tangible building blocks toward realizing such inspired visions.  As physical and functional representations of a university’s values toward sustainability, these projects are meant to attract top talent – from the high-profile teams who deliver them to the distinguished faculty and scholars drawn to teach and learn there.  The first academic building for CornellNYC’s Tech Campus and USC’s Darla Moore Business School, designed by “starchitects” Thom Mayne and Rafael Vinoly respectively, are each well into six figures of usable learning space.  They push the boundary of what’s thought possible for high performance learning environments.

Beyond attracting bright minds, zero-energy school and university buildings can operate as vital instructional tools for elevating awareness of the technical, behavioral and cultural requirements for attaining a future state where ZEBs are common.  If today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, what better place to nurture future practitioners’ expertise than in a zero-net energy living laboratory?  The 230,000 square foot College of Electrical and Computer Engineering Building (ECE) at the University of Illinois is an emerging ZEB with potential for occupants to both learn from their new facility through research and shape the evolving market by sharing their successes and challenges.  Rather than representing an ideal state, buildings like the ECE will be artifacts of a concentrated push toward a low-impact built environment, meant for enough study and experimentation to inform the next wave of ZEB design.  The industry needs this feedback loop to accelerate adoption within the broader commercial market.

One exciting zero-energy education project isn’t just a building.  The UC Davis West Village—comprised of hundreds of living units, along with generous commercial and recreational facilities—takes the idea of zero energy outside the classroom and into a community. By extending the boundary from a building site to a whole mixed-use development, West Village can realize ZEB status by capitalizing on efficiencies of scale often unattainable with one-off structures.  Ultimately, lessons learned here will be influential in driving the industry towards visions of entire zero energy campuses, districts, and cities. A particularly challenging element to making these visions a reality is predicting human behavior, and gently inducing patterns to minimize energy consumption.  For West Village, a mobile app is designed to help residents stay under a defined electricity cap.  With an ecosystem of similar energy consumption management apps growing around the Green Button Initiative, a similar approach may one day scale to the masses. Stay tuned.  It’s sure to be educational.

California leading by example

CA-mapMore than 80 public building representatives met in Sacramento earlier this month to kick off California’s ZNE Early Adopters Network. The meeting was the first of three planned sessions to support public sector leadership in zero-net energy (ZNE) in order to meet California’s Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan Big Bold goals for ZNE in new residential and commercial construction by 2020 and 2030, respectively.

Representatives from the Governor’s office, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), New Buildings Institute (NBI), and the Department of General Services (DGS) joined participants to facilitate knowledge-sharing, examine ZNE project examples, review new communications resources and plan the steps they will take to reach their policy and building portfolio objectives for ZNE. Participants came from local governments, state agencies, k-12 schools and higher education sectors.

At the meeting, DGS officials described 14 state building pilot projects aiming for zero net energy performance as part of efforts to implement a Governor’s 2012 Executive Order to make all new state buildings beginning design after 2025 to be ZNE. The following day, DGS gathered key state agency building and energy professionals together with utility staff and experienced ZNE design professionals to discuss critical building and process issues for these new and retrofit pilot projects.

“I believe that in a few years, we will look back on these workshops as a transformational moment in the design of government buildings.” said Tom Piette, DGS Supervising Architect for Energy and Sustainability Programs.

Two additional meetings are planned later this year to provide ongoing assistance as public sector representatives plan for project financing, design and stakeholder engagement. For more information about the event, contact Heather Flint Chatto at NBI.

Denis Hayes of the Bullitt Foundation to open the Getting to Zero National Forum

Bullitt Center with owner Denis Hayes

Denis Hayes in front of the Bullitt Center under construction last year. The building, which opened in April, is designed to use only as much energy as can be produced onsite through clean, renewable resources.

Denis Hayes will join policy makers, program managers, building owners and design professionals at the Getting to Zero National Forum in Denver this September 17-18 to share the motivations and challenges of creating what may be the tallest zero-net energy (ZNE) building in the world (we’ll know for sure in about 9 months).

With his bold vision, Denis brought together a group of highly talented professionals in the architecture, engineering, and construction disciplines to work through an integrated design process that allowed for continual exchange of information and ideas. Rethinking traditional approaches, the design team found creative solutions to a series of challenges and produced the newly opened Bullitt Center in Seattle. The six-story, 50,000 square foot building is designed for ZNE performance, meaning that it will use only as much energy as can be produced onsite over the course of a year.

Denis’ commitment to environmental issues is demonstrated by the accolades: Time magazine “Hero of the Planet,” John Muir Award, Rachel Carson Medal, and a National Jefferson Award. He was the first national coordinator of Earth Day, which many say launched the modern environmental movement. “At various times I’ve been a lawyer in San Francisco, a professor of engineering at Stanford, the director of a national laboratory (SERI),” according to Denis. Today, he is the president of the Bullitt Foundation where he leads an effort to mold the cities of the Pacific Northwest into global models of resilience, applying ecological principles to the design of ‘human ecosystems’.

Join us at the Getting to Zero National Forum to see Denis as a building owner, working to create a modern built environment where every worker has access to fresh air and daylight—a healthy, human environment that is more pleasant and more productive than traditional commercial spaces.

Details about the upcoming Getting to Zero National Forum at the NASEO Annual Meeting

Register Now for the Getting to Zero National Forum

Learn more about the Bullitt Center