Sustainable Design for the 21st Century

Salt Lake City New Public Safety Building – 100% Net Zero!

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by Brent Sauser

The recently completed Salt Lake City Public Safety Building boasts the first  Net Zero building of its size in the USA to achieve a Net Zero rating.  The building covers over 174,000 SF, comprising two underground floors for parking and four above ground levels housing the Salt Lake City police, fire departments, and emergency operations dispatch center.

Public Safety Bldg - UtahThe Net Zero Public Safety Building was financed through a $125 million bond passed in 2009 to replace the existing outdated facilities.   Not only does the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building achieve Net Zero, but can withstand a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, permitting occupants to continue working during and after the event.

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Net Zero features include:

  • LED lighting
  • Solar water heating system
  • Radiant floor heating and cooling system
  • Solar canopy featuring photovoltaic integrated glass panels
  • Offsite solar energy farm
  • Roof top vegetation
  • Strategically placed windows

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A building of comparable size constructed without any Net Zero systems would generate over 2,670 metric tons of greenhouse gases, while the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building generates only 524 metric tons of greenhouse gasses a year.  An Energy Star rating of 100 was awarded because of its energy efficiency and reduction in emissions.  For further information regarding the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building please click on the following:

World’s Largest Certified Net Zero Energy Building Opens In Los Altos

By Beth Buczynski

More companies and organizations are finally putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to sustainability. Most recently, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which provides non-profit grants for conservation and science, announced that its new headquarters had achieved Net Zero Energy Building Certification through the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).

This is no small feat as the building, located at 343 Second Street in Los Altos, Calif., clocks in at about 49,000 square feet. It took careful planning and lots of determination on the part of the Foundation to achieve the net zero status. As of this week, however, it has achieved the goal of operating its headquarters building at net zero energy by generating more than enough electricity to meet its needs during the first full year of occupancy.

While the Packard Foundation’s main goal is to support the development of science and technology, people are at the center of its mission. Nowhere is that better demonstrated than in how they chose to build their new headquarters.

“The Packard Foundation believes that the future of the planet’s health greatly depends on how we live and work today,” said Susan Packard Orr, board chair of the Foundation. “My parents, David and Lucile Packard, cared deeply about science and technology as a means to effect positive change in the lives of real people, everywhere.  I am sure they would see their values reflected in this important achievement that’s been realized through the Foundation’s new headquarters.”

Sustainable strategies that allowed the building to achieve Net Zero status (as well as LEED Platinum certification) include:

  • Electricity production via  915 rooftop solar panels
  • Effective use of daylight to supplement artificial lighting
  • Efficient heating and cooling using innovative chilled beam technology
  • Storing up to 20,000 gallons of rainwater for irrigation and toilet flushing
  • Use of living green roof and rooftop gutters to assist with rainwater collection
  • Recycling 95% of materials from pre-existing buildings
  • Crafting all interior doors from locally salvaged eucalyptus trees
  • 100% outside air for ventilation
  • Desktop alerts that indicate when doors and windows can be opened for natural ventilation

“The Net Zero Energy Building Certification of the Packard Foundation building is significant to ILFI because it shows that it is possible for large buildings to live within their energy means,” said Amanda Sturgeon, Vice President of the Living Building Challenge for ILFI. “The Packard Foundation has shown that organizations do not need to trade off comfort to achieve net zero energy. They have shown it is possible to build and operate buildings that meet these dual goals.”

Want to know more about how they did it?

Photo Credit:

Top:  David Livingston

Middle: Jeremy Bitterman

Bottom:  Jeremy Bitterman

NET ZERO CASE STUDY: NREL National Laboratory

by Brent Sauser

The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado recently completed their flagship Net Zero Research Support Facility (RSF). This 360,000 square foot office building was constructed at about $250sf and is certified to a Platinum LEED level. The RSF has won numerous awards for its innovative design and sustainable design features.

The RSF building showcases numerous high performance design features, passive energy strategies, and renewable energy technologies. It is a prototype for the future of large scale ultra efficient buildings. NREL documentation states the following:

1.   Building orientation:

The relatively narrow floor plate (60′ wide) enables daylighting and natural ventilation for all occupants. Building orientation and geometry minimizes east and west glazing. North and south glazing is optimally sized and shaded to provide daylighting while minimizing unwanted heat losses and gains.

2. Labyrinth thermal storage:

A labyrinth of massive concrete structures is in the RSF crawl space. The labyrinth stores thermal energy and provides additional capacity for passive heating of the building.

3. Transpired solar collectors:

Outside ventilation air is passively preheated via a transpired solar collector (a technology developed by NREL) on the building’s south facing wall before delivery to the labyrinth and occupied space.

4. Daylighting:

100 percent of the workstations are daylit. Daylight enters the upper portions of the south facing windows and is reflected to the ceiling and deep into the space with light reflecting devices.

5. Triple glazed, operable windows with individual sunshades:

Aggressive window shading is designed to address different orientations and positions of glazed openings. Occupants can open some windows to bring in fresh air and cool the building naturally.

6. Precast concrete insulated panels:

A thermally massive exterior wall assembly using an insulated precast concrete panel system provides significant thermal mass to moderate the building’s internal temperature.

7. Radiant heating and cooling:

Approximately 42 miles of radiant piping runs through all floors of the building, using water as the cooling and heating medium in the majority of workspaces—instead of forced air.

Constructing a building of this size to achieve Net Zero is further evidence that the technology exists currently here and now to go Net Zero. At around $250 square foot, going Net Zero does not have to break the budget.

For further information regarding the NREL RSF facility please .

Photo Credits:

Top photo credit:  Pat Corkery

Middle photo credit: Dennis Schroeder

Bottom photo credit: Dennis Schroeder


Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Headquarters

by Brent Sauser

Article Source:  Asad Syrkett; GreenSource Magazine – May/Junue 2013 Edition

conrad hilton foundation agoura hills 01Located in the greater Los Angeles area of Agoura Hills, resides the first phase of the new Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Headquarters.  Designed by ZGF Architects the new foundation HQ is seeking LEED conrad hilton foundation agoura hills 03Platinum certification and is hoped to achieve a Net Zero energy performance (currently under review).  The first of four  two-story office buildings, this first phase totals 22,240 square feet, at $24 million.  The facility utilizes many passive design features to minimize mechanical means to heat and cool the building. In particular, they are:


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  • Clerestory windows (improving daylighting)
  • East-West building orientation
  • Long, narrow rectangular design to allow maximum light exposure
  • Automated shades
  • Planted roof
  • Passive downdraft HVAC system featuring 17 shafts (or chimneys)
  • Natural ventilation
  • Two-story center atrium to permit natural ventilation and interior daylighting

Active systems include:

  • 1,000 SF solar thermal-heating system
  • Water-cooled chilling
  • 115.2  kW photovoltaic array

conrad hilton foundation agoura hills 02The new Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Headquarters is not just a new office complex, but a shining example of what can be done to build Net Zero, reflecting a gentler, more sensitive approach to how man and environment can better coexist.conrad hilton foundation agoura hills 04  Everyone wins with this approach to design and construction.  This project is another well executed example of how we can enjoy our expected creature comforts and in the process, give something back . . . or at the very minimum, remain energy neutral with all on site power demands.  This project demonstrates that building in context to nature and the surrounding environment can be achieved with careful planning and attention to passive design principles.

The Net Zero building movement is gaining traction, with more and more Net Zero buildings coming on-line every day.  This is not a passing trend or design fad.  Net Zero design is here to stay and is only getting bigger, better.  The entire design and building community is moving in the Net Zero direction not only because legislation is mandating it . . . but, because it is the right thing to do.

For more information regarding the Conrad N. Foundation Headquarters please .

Walgreens Goes Net Zero!

by Brent Sauser

Evanston, Illinois is not only known for the home of Northwestern University and not so well known for the place of my birth. . . but will now hold the prestigious honor of having the first Net Zero retail store constructed in the United States.  Way to go Evanston!  Way to go Walgreens!

Walgreens at Evanston IllOn March 7, 2013 Walgreens announced plans to build the first Net Zero energy retail store in the United States.  This building is designed to produce energy equal or greater than it consumes.  This will be accomplished by using 800 solar panels, 2 wind turbines, geothermal technology, energy efficient building materials, LED/daylighting and ultra high efficiency refrigeration.  This Walgreens store will serve as a prototype for future Walgreens stores, and will be monitored and studied to determine the correct  balance of Net Zero systems to assure a Net Zero solution.  Current estimates for this facility is a usage of 200,000 kilowatt hours per year while generating 256,000 kilowatt hours per year.  Walgreens will pursue a LEED Platinum certification.

For more information regarding the new Net Zero Walgreens in Evanston, Illinois please .

Case Study – IDeAs Z2 Design Facility

IDeAs Z2 Design Facility

In 2007, when green building typically meant incremental improvements in design and performance, Integrated Design Associates (IDeAs) set out for radical change. This approach culminated in the creation of the IDeAs Z2 Design Facility, a net zero energy building that emits no carbon dioxide. 

Through an integrated design approach focused on plug load reduction, plentiful daylighting and continuous energy metering, the project successfully met its “z-squared” goal and created a vibrant, inspiring environment for IDeAs employees. As one of the first two projects to achieve the International Living Future Institute’s Net Zero Energy Building certification, the Design Facility has set the bar for cutting edge, net zero energy development.  (Image credit: © 2007 Dave Wakely)

Click on Case Studies for more information.