DPR Construction, a national sustainable building company, found its perfect Phoenix office space in the former home of an erotic supply store.

It’s now the second certified Net Zero building in America--meaning it makes at least as much energy as it uses. It’s also the largest.

Highlights of the building include an 87-foot solar chimney that releases hot air and brings cool air in, an online building dashboard that tracks energy production (from the nearly 79 kilowat solar system) and use, and 87 windows that open and close based on indoor and outdoor temperatures.

It also uses a set of 82 Solatubes that harness light from rooftop domes and bring it down to office level using an internal reflective system.

It also uses a set of 82 Solatubes that harness light from rooftop domes and bring it down to office level using an internal reflective system.

It also uses a set of 82 Solatubes that harness light from rooftop domes and bring it down to office level using an internal reflective system.

It also uses a set of 82 Solatubes that harness light from rooftop domes and bring it down to office level using an internal reflective system.

It also uses a set of 82 Solatubes that harness light from rooftop domes and bring it down to office level using an internal reflective system.

2013-06-05

Co.Exist

This Former Porn Shop Is Now The Biggest Net-Zero Energy Building In The World

Where there was once lube and lingerie, there are now solar panels and a "vampire energy kill switch."

Most (if not all) American cities have a smattering of sex shops--one-stop shops for lingerie, massage oils, dildos, and the occasional bondage restraint kit. In the early 2000s, at the corner of 44th Street and Van Buren, Phoenix, Arizona, had the Castle Boutique. Then the megastore built a new location, walked away from its lease, and left the building to sit for three years.

When DPR Construction, a national sustainable building company, came across the 16,533-square-foot building, they knew they had encountered something special. "When we first went to look at it, we went down with a broker in June. It was 105 or 110 degrees, but inside the building was still in the low 80s, which told us that the building was well-insulated and able to manage itself. We knew the building could perform well given the right prescriptive changes," says Dave Elrod, regional manager at DPR Construction.

Today, the structure (DPR’s Phoenix regional office) is certified as a Net-Zero Energy Building by the International Living Future Institute--the second building in the U.S. and the largest in the U.S. to get the status, which requires buildings to be net-zero energy (meaning it produces as much as it uses), incorporate renewable energy in attractive and inspiring ways, and keep contributions to sprawl development to a minimum, among other things.

Highlights of the building include an 87-foot solar chimney that releases hot air and brings cool air in, an online building dashboard that tracks energy production (from the nearly 79 kilowat solar system) and use, and 87 windows that open and close based on indoor and outdoor temperatures. One of the most exciting parts of the building for Elrod is the set of Solatubes--82 of them--that harness light from rooftop domes and bring it down to office level using an internal reflective system. "The quality of light we get without turning on a single light fixture is amazing," he says.

The building draws on lessons learned from DPR’s San Diego office, another net-zero energy structure. The Phoenix office’s "vampire shut-off switch," which turns off energy-sucking devices when no one is in the building, came from DPR San Diego’s discovery that its plug load was abnormally high during non-working hours.

In the past few years, DPR has brought over 6,000 people into the building to share in what it calls a "living lab." Says Elrod: "The biggest thing we’ve learned is just how difficult it is for an owner to do any project, let alone a net-zero energy project. Besides being net zero and LEED certified, we also had a goal of being financially responsible. The point was to make it achievable for those who are going to own and live in buildings to think about these kinds of strategies."

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