• 12.20.11

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.

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.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.