Net-zero-energy buildings—structures that produce as much or more energy that they use—are necessary for cities that want to prepare for the resource limits of tomorrow. Architects (and everyone else) searching for inspiration need look no further than the winners of the Architecture At Zero competition, a Pacific Gas & Electric and AIA San Francisco-sponsored competition that challenged entrants to build a mixed-use building or set of buildings at an industrial urban infill site in Emeryville, California.
Successful entrants had to design grid-tied buildings (unsurprising since major utility PG&E is a sponsor of the competition) featuring housing, retail space, and a public library branch, and using less or equal to the amount of energy produced by on-site renewables—defined as solar, wind, geothermal, biofuel, or microhydro power. The eight-acre building site is pictured here.
In the slideshow above, we look at the competition winners. None of these designs may actually be used, but they’re food for thought in an area ripe for more energy-efficient development.