Net-zero features: passive strategies

There are many different features that work into the building’s ambitious net-zero energy goal. An engineering building is bound to use a lot of energy, particularly in this case because of the building’s clean room lab. So what strategies are being used to achieve the net-zero goal? It starts with the passive solar strategies and the building’s enhanced envelope, as described by SmithGroupJJR’s architectural designer Coty Sandberg.

Naturally, light and heat from the sun both help and hinder energy conservation in different ways. The new ECE building is designed to maximize the positive energy aspects of sunlight and reduce the negative ones. “Approximately 80% of the windows are shaded by the south solar canopy or by the terracotta baguettes,” Sandberg said. These elements function to let in the sun during the winter, but protect from the harsh sun in the summer. Combined with the fact that most of the building’s windows are on the south side of the building, this results in optimal daylighting and reduced energy loads.


The first application of the building’s terracotta exterior

The material used for the exterior of the building is key to energy conservation. 70% of the exterior is a terracotta rain screen system. Sandberg added that “The skin of this building is extremely high-performing. It has four inches of insulation to achieve this very high thermal value” – an R30 thermal value. This keeps the building safe from outside temperature fluctuations, reducing energy that would be used for heating and cooling.

Those are some of the building’s passive strategies for energy conservation, and together they provide 8% energy savings – meaning that they cause the building to consume 8% less energy than the ASHRAE 90.1 baseline building, which is used to compare energy savings. Future blog posts will cover other features of the building that will contribute to energy conservation and production, which together work toward the net-zero energy goal.