Attending the important and exciting lecture titled “Achieving Zero” by Ed Mazria (internationally recognized architect, author, researcher and educator on the topic of sustainability) hosted this recently in Santa Barbara got us thinking about how Blackbird is helping their clients get closer to net-zero energy building.
First, lets be clear on what net-zero energy building is. A net-zero energy building is one that produces as much energy on site as it consumes over the course of a calendar year. Surprisingly, there only exist a handful of buildings in the US that meet this definition. A quick search of the New Buildings Institute ‘Getting to Zero Database’ (a reliable source for information on exemplary sustainable buildings) reveals a short list of just 42 buildings that have been certified by the institute as net-zero energy. This is not to say that designers and community leaders are not working hard towards buildings that consume less energy (and produce more energy!).
Santa Barbara City is a nation-wide leader in the adoption of sustainable energy building codes and regulations and Blackbird is proud to be a part of such a forward-thinking community. In 2007 the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously approved the Architecture 2030 Energy Ordinance becoming the first city to adopt the Architecture 2030 challenge into their building energy code.
What is the Architecture 2030 Challenge? Founded in 2002 by Ed Mazria, this organization challenged the building sector to dramatically reduce energy consumption through better design and design innovation. The challenge identified energy reduction targets for new and old construction establishing a practical path to net-zero buildings by the year 2030.
With sustainability always on our minds as we design any project we thought it helpful to identify some of the basic strategies Blackbird employs to help our clients get closer to achieving net-zero energy building. Our strategies are a two-pronged approach that works to create buildings that use less energy to begin with and also, if possible, produce energy on site.
Energy Efficiency Strategies
Thoughtful Site Design
Careful consideration of a buildings location and orientation on a site to optimize solar access. This includes consideration of desirable solar heat gain in the cooler months and shading to protect undesirable solar heat gain in the warmer months.
Access to daylight is a critical factor in laying out floor plans. With appropriate access to natural daylight, artificial lighting needs are greatly reduced.
Insulated Energy Envelope
A high-performance building envelope is an easy way to keep the interior climate right where you want it without needing to expend a lot of energy on mechanical heating and cooling.
Optimizing the natural ventilation of spaces through operable windows means that less energy needs to be consumed on mechanical ventilation of the building.
Efficient Building Systems
Blackbird pushes its electrical and mechanical engineering consultants to bring the most energy efficient systems to the table. This could mean specifying all LED lighting fixtures, radiant floor heating, ground source heat pumps or other non-traditional but highly efficient systems that result in less energy consumption.
Energy Production Strategies
Solar Hot Water Heating
This is a great option for our residential clients looking for a heated swimming pool. Solar hot water can also be used for interior building hot water needs.
Solar Electricity Generation
Many of Blackbird’s projects include solar electric generation capabilities through rooftop solar panels. See our design for the Coyote residence (photo of solar trellis below).
Blackbird has also helped our commercial clients install larger arrays of solar panels. At a parking lot in Isla Vista (see photo below) solar panels provided shade cover for the cars below and generated much of the sites electricity needs.
Tracking a building’s energy consumption or production allows for further improvements to building systems even after the building has been built. Below is a recent screen-capture from a real-time energy production solar log installed by one of our institutional clients. This log allows them to track their solar energy production and compare that to their energy demands.
Net-zero energy building is coming and Blackbird is well versed in the design strategies and technological innovations that can get us there.