Not Just a Coming Attraction: ZNE is Already Here!

nexus
Professional Merit Award winner – “Nexus” by Dialog (Vancouver, Canada)

Several years ago, Zero Net Energy, or ZNE as it is often referred to, would have been an unthinkable goal for any community in this country, let alone for an entire state. But in California, it is certain to become a household word by the end of this decade. The City of Santa Monica recently passed an ordinance requiring all newly built single-family homes, duplexes, as well as multi-family structures, to be in compliance with ZNE codes. By the year 2020, the State of California will require the implementation of a similar step in housing construction. According to California’s Green Building Code, a ZNE home is one that produces as much renewable energy on-site as it consumes annually.

 

Contrary to anti-sustainability positions taken by some government officials in other states—most notably in Florida—California has been at the forefront in promoting energy efficiency measures. As an offshoot of this trend, a series of competitions supported not only by the AIA California, but also by the primary energy provider in the state, PG&E have taken place annually since 2011—all at different sites. Although conceived as ideas competitions, the clients who were considering construction projects participated in supplying the necessary site and volume data for the program, and it was probably understood that some of the ideas from the competitions would be incorporated in the ultimate projects.

 

In this year’s 2016 Architecture at Zero competition, the site was located at San Francisco State University, near Lake Merced in the southwestern area of the city. As a potential client, the university supplied data for a student residence project, especially important to the San Francisco area because of the high cost of housing. One negative outcome of this scenario has been a low student retention rate. By targeting affordable housing for students, the university sees this as part of the solution.

 

site-plan

 

Competitors were tasked to regard the design challenge with these priorities in mind:
“By encouraging innovative design solutions to site-specific design challenges, the competition aims to broaden thinking about the technical and aesthetic possibilities of zero net energy projects. Further, it seeks to raise the profile of ZNE among built-environment professionals, students, and the general public in California and beyond.”

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