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Architecture At Zero: Making The Ultimate Net-Zero-Energy Building

Buildings that produce more energy than they use may be a necessity in the future. A new design competition asked architects to design these net-zero buildings for a site in California, with impressive results.

  • <p>This wasn’t a winner, but it did take the Jury Recognition honor. Dubbed "Battery Park:From Zero to Positive," this design is actually two projects in one. The first project is a net-zero energy building; the second proposes taking waste sources from the larger community and turning them into energy.</p>

<p>Residential units offer insulation, natural ventilation, daylight, and hydronic heating. Engineered wetland systems act as a source for both site and community water needs. The wetland system also produces biomass (for energy) and has the added benefit of agricultural production.</p>

<p>Waste heat from neighboring industrial spaces, big-box retailers, and commercial spaces (Emeryville has no shortage of these) will also be used for energy. Blackwater, food scraps, and agricultural waste will also serve as energy sources.</p>
  • <p>Waste heat from neighboring industrial spaces, big-box retailers, and commercial spaces (Emeryville has no shortage of these) will also be used for energy. Blackwater, food scraps, and agricultural waste will also serve as energy sources.</p>
  • <p>Designed by Tom Tang and Yijie Dang, the Chimera project consists of what the creators call "a chimera of many types of buildings, each generating energy in a different way and sharing resources with each other through a porous green volume."</p>

<p>Energy is provided by solar photovoltaic panels and wind power. Solar hot water and a geothermal system offer heat, and solar shading and insulation provide energy savings. When excess energy is produced, Chimera sends it back to the city grid.</p>

<p>Each building provides a different type of energy: the northwest building uses its relative bounty of wind to power wind turbines, the eastern-most building slopes toward the sun for solar PV use, and the southern-most building supplies solar hot water.</p>
  • <p>Phototactic-Ville, designed by Jihyoon Yoon, a student at Harvard, may not be as futuristic-looking as the other winning entries, but it’s just as efficient. The shape of the building lets in ample natural light, while the concrete structure offers insulation. The double facade serves two functions: allowing ventilation and keeping outside noise from coming in.</p>
  • <p>Solar installations provide energy and hot water, while a constructed wetland is used for stormwater treatment.</p>
  • <p>The brainchild of four students at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, the Ripple Effect net-zero housing project consists of two staggered housing structures with ample daylight and airflow; balconies; and green spaces. Photovoltaic panels spread out across the community produce more energy than is necessary to power the site.</p>

<p>Rainfall collected by the Ripple Effect (named for the "ripple effect" the designers hope the project would have on the community) is used for toilet flushing and laundry. The designers estimate that this can provide 36% of water demand based on average rainfall each year in Emeryville.</p>
  • 01 /06 | Battery Park: From Zero to Positive

    This wasn’t a winner, but it did take the Jury Recognition honor. Dubbed "Battery Park:From Zero to Positive," this design is actually two projects in one. The first project is a net-zero energy building; the second proposes taking waste sources from the larger community and turning them into energy.

    Residential units offer insulation, natural ventilation, daylight, and hydronic heating. Engineered wetland systems act as a source for both site and community water needs. The wetland system also produces biomass (for energy) and has the added benefit of agricultural production.

    Waste heat from neighboring industrial spaces, big-box retailers, and commercial spaces (Emeryville has no shortage of these) will also be used for energy. Blackwater, food scraps, and agricultural waste will also serve as energy sources.

  • 02 /06 | Battery Park: From Zero to Positive

    Waste heat from neighboring industrial spaces, big-box retailers, and commercial spaces (Emeryville has no shortage of these) will also be used for energy. Blackwater, food scraps, and agricultural waste will also serve as energy sources.

  • 03 /06 | Chimera

    Designed by Tom Tang and Yijie Dang, the Chimera project consists of what the creators call "a chimera of many types of buildings, each generating energy in a different way and sharing resources with each other through a porous green volume."

    Energy is provided by solar photovoltaic panels and wind power. Solar hot water and a geothermal system offer heat, and solar shading and insulation provide energy savings. When excess energy is produced, Chimera sends it back to the city grid.

    Each building provides a different type of energy: the northwest building uses its relative bounty of wind to power wind turbines, the eastern-most building slopes toward the sun for solar PV use, and the southern-most building supplies solar hot water.

  • 04 /06 | Phototactic-Ville

    Phototactic-Ville, designed by Jihyoon Yoon, a student at Harvard, may not be as futuristic-looking as the other winning entries, but it’s just as efficient. The shape of the building lets in ample natural light, while the concrete structure offers insulation. The double facade serves two functions: allowing ventilation and keeping outside noise from coming in.

  • 05 /06 | Phototactic-Ville

    Solar installations provide energy and hot water, while a constructed wetland is used for stormwater treatment.

  • 06 /06 | Ripple Effect

    The brainchild of four students at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, the Ripple Effect net-zero housing project consists of two staggered housing structures with ample daylight and airflow; balconies; and green spaces. Photovoltaic panels spread out across the community produce more energy than is necessary to power the site.

    Rainfall collected by the Ripple Effect (named for the "ripple effect" the designers hope the project would have on the community) is used for toilet flushing and laundry. The designers estimate that this can provide 36% of water demand based on average rainfall each year in Emeryville.

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.

Slideshow Credits: 01 / HOK in San Francisco; 02 / HOK in San Francisco; 03 / Chimera; 04 / Phototactic-Ville; 05 / Phototactic-Ville; 06 / Ripple Effect;

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