Arizona desert hosts world's largest 'net zero energy' building
The new Phoenix regional office of DPR Construction has been officially certified as a "net zero energy" building by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). It’s the largest building in the world to achieve net zero energy building certification through the institute to date.
SmithGroupJJR designed the comprehensive renovation of the windowless, 1970s concrete block building, transitioning it into a model for sustainable adaptive reuse. The entire project was completed in less than 10 months and is the first net zero energy building SmithGroupJJR has designed.
Located at the corner of 44th and Van Buren in a once declining area of Phoenix, the 16,533-square-foot storefront had most recently operated as an adult-themed boutique before standing vacant for three years. The eyesore building was purchased by national general contractor and construction manager DPR Construction, which was looking to build a modern and highly efficient workplace.
“Many building owners may think it’s impossible to turn an aging, neglected building into something highly sustainable – especially in an extreme climate like Phoenix," said Mark Roddy, SmithGroupJJR design principal. "But that’s precisely what we’ve achieved.”
Net zero energy facilities integrate a combination of energy-producing technologies such as solar and wind and implement efficient HVAC and lighting systems to reduce a building’s overall energy usage. To achieve the building certification, a facility must demonstrate a net energy consumption of zero over the span of one year.
DPR Construction and SmithGroupJJR incorporated a range of advanced design solutions to achieve net zero energy, including:
- An 87-foot solar chimney enables a passive cooling system, releasing hot air out of the building while drawing cooler air in.
- Nearly 90 operable windows throughout the building work in tandem with the energy monitoring system to open and close based on indoor and outdoor temperatures.
- 82 solar optical tubes (Solatubes) harness light from rooftop domes and bring it into the workspace, nearly eliminating the need for artificial lighting.
- Twelve 8-foot diameter Big Ass Fans circulate air flow throughout the office.
- A “vampire” switch cuts off 90 percent of plug loads, which would otherwise continue to draw power at night when the building is unoccupied.
- Four evaporative Shower Towers direct water-cooled air inside, also helping to regulate building temperatures.
- Producing power for the building is a 78.96 kilowatt photovoltaic-covered canopy over half of the parking lot. The system is capable of generating enough power to offset the building’s annual energy usage and is critical to allowing the facility to achieve net zero energy consumption.
Tracking the building’s energy production and consumption in real time is an online building dashboard, prominently displayed in the office’s reception area.