NZE Buildings - design to occupancy to certification

The teams involved in the delivery of the following projects talked us through the challenges and achievements they experienced in the process. More information about each project can be found at the webpage links provided below. I will summarise the outline of each project and the main messages I took away from each one.


Z home

Located on the east side of Lake Washington, "zHome is a revolutionary, 10-unit townhome development that uses smart design and cutting edge technologies to radically reduce its environmental impacts. zHome will prove that homes that use zero net energy and 60% less water, emit net zero carbon emissions, have clean indoor air and use only low-toxicity materials are possible and scalable to mainstream home production."


Started in 2006 - fully occupied + finished 2011. $275,000 - $495,000 houses, 1,2 + 3 BRs

City offered land at no cost. Developed a detailed design and offered up to developers after this. Broke ground on 19/09/08 - the day the Dow dropped 777 points…. Hiatus. Finally found Japanese home builder who got project going again in 2010.

Goal - to be mainstream. Also wanted:

  • focus on animals (including people) not cars

  • to be beautiful and elegantain areas of discussion:

1 Thermal envelope

Highly insulated with double glazed windows - need to carefully model impacts of different decisions so money spent well.

2 Heating + hot water

Used geothermal with 15 wells, 220 ft deep - community system with individual heat pumps for top up. Would share heat pumps next time as well as better checks on geothermal viability.

3 Solar electricity

Tried wind - not enough. Each unit has own array with own end phase micro inverters to isolate non-working panels.

4 Education

Market catalyst project - has had huge impact and interest from people. Sold out in tough economic times. Over 10,000 people have been on tours and huge press coverage.


DPR Pheonix regional offices

"A living laboratory for the community, DPR Construction's new office is a unique example of urban revitalization and sustainability. Conceptualized as a "net-zero energy workplace of the future," DPR Construction (DPR) created an open-office environment housing 58 workstations and floater spaces, nine conference / training / innovation / mediated technology rooms, support spaces, fully-equipped gym/locker facilities, and a zen room for a quiet retreat. DPR incorporated passive/active cooling solutions including 87 operable windows, four shower towers, an 87-foot long, zinc-clad solar chimney, and a 79 kW-dc rated photovoltaic solar panel covered parking lot to control the indoor environment naturally and produce energy onsite. A Lucid Building Dashboard® system is utilized to allow DPR to monitor and share building water and gas usage, lighting and power consumption, and photovoltaic energy production in real time."

DPR nighttime_wideangle

While finding the right building to work with, it only took 10 months to design and build. With Phoenix being so spread out, finding a place on the light rail corridor (which connects to the airport) was really important.

The 16,000 ft2 offices in the once abandoned 1964 building show a different way of living in the desert. Zoning to provide shelter from worst orientations and careful design of open plan offices helped achieve outcomes. Other ideas include:

-  Lots of daylight studies to deliver low level generally with task lighting as required

- Solar chimney modelled resulting in passive hybrid downdraft cooling. Water issues around this - putting in place a capture system and monitoring on potable water for this.

- Connection with the external environment through a well designed and managed courtyard

- Dust is being managed through cleaning

- Paperweights - required to ensure Big Ass Fans don't blow paper everywhere!


Packard Foundation Headquarters

"When the Packard Foundation was designing our headquarters to be a net zero energy and LEED® Platinum building, we were making a conscious decision to live the values we support.

We hope to inspire others to construct buildings that are more environmentally sustainable. We invite you to take a look at our building through the videos, images, and resources we have shared on these pages. Our green building:

  • Represents a physical manifestation of our long-term commitment to conserving the Earth's natural resources
  • Provides a comfortable, healthful space for our employees to work collaboratively
  • Supports a vital downtown in the community which has been the Foundation's home for over 45 years"

packard hq-dusk

The Foundation wanted something "Californian" - decided this would be long thin plan, with interesting roofs, that could easily connect inside and out.

This provided an opportunity to ensure the landscaping is native and appropriate. The internal courtyard, which is sheltered and protected, has proved to be a huge success. It is so well used that is has changed the culture of the organisation, and works well for naturally ventilating the building.

The plan works really well for daylighting - even better than anticipated. This is due to a balance achieved from light coming from more than one side, and really well controlled strategies for managing sunlight. In addition to computer controlled devices, the roof and trees help out.

Interesting analysis of costs:

Triple glazing  + $ 75,000

Mechanical system   - $150,000

Photovoltaic system  - $300,000

TOTAL SAVING  - $375,000

-Wood studs 2 x better performance than steel

-Prefab systems use less timber

-Chilled beam system works really well - not run at constant volume but as required

-Water tanks for cooling tower are in ground with water at 60˚F

Plug loads biggest problem - started with recommendations for reduction that were initially out of employees comfort zone. Now, with close team work in occupancy, they are owning this and driving improvements.


Jackson Sustainable Winery Project

"This $4 million state-of-the art structure, when fully equipped, will enable the adjacent teaching and research winery, brewery and food-processing facility to operate in a self-sustainable manner through onsite capture of energy and water. It was made possible by a $3 million pledge from the late Jess Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, proprietor of Jackson Family Wines.

The one-story, 8,500 square-foot building will eventually house equipment and systems for capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide from wine fermentation, and for filtering and recirculating water for wine, beer and food processing. It is expected to be the first building at any university to be certified Net Zero Energy under the Living Building Challenge and only the second such building in California."


The building is now finished and they are entering the final stage of certification.

Design/build competition was won by team who used LBC as a value add.

The orientation is off north, which is good for the local winds - necessary for cooling in such a hot site. Cooling achieved entirely by passive strategy that includes night time flushing. Extensive thermal modelling was used during design. Team used a pre engineering, manufactured building structure and morphed it into the resultant building with a high performance external envelope. Roof insulation R85, wall insulation R65 + high performing windows. While external temps are  4˚ - 106˚, internal temps remain 60˚ - 80˚, required for a winery.

Other issues include:

• Opaque envelope

• Tight building - used blower door testing

• Right trade partners

• Pre construction meetings with whole team

• Tracking of performance

• Validation of performance

• Contract required commitment to temperature band and LBC NZE

Fees were negotiated up front to ensure there was money for post occupancy monitoring and input, which has proven critical to success.

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