Winners Announced In Net Zero Building Contest For UC Merced

Buildings that generate all their own energy on site are all the rage these days. But which net zero building is the best? The Architecture At Zero 2012 competition — hosted by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and AIA San Francisco, in collaboration with UC Merced — aimed to find out, and now the winners have been announced.

Honor Awards were given to Loisos & Ubbelohde Associates for “Silver Streak” [PDF] and Ren Ito Arq. for “Cactus” [PDF], while Merit Awards were given to Archassist for “Cotton Farm” [PDF] and team Wei Yan and Edward Clark for “Homeostasis” [PDF]. Student Awards were given to team Daniel LaRossa and Amadeo Bennetta — recent graduates of University of Virginia — for “[Agri]cultural Durability,” and a student team from Academy of Art University in San Francisco for “Mountain.”


image via Architecture at Zero 2012

The design challenge invited designers, academics, researchers and students to design a new zero net energy (ZNE) student housing or administrative office building for the University of California Merced in Merced, California. As part of the Architecture at Zero 2012 challenge, entrants were also asked to create a diagrammatic district energy plan for the Bellevue Gateway development, which is where UC Merced’s new net zero buildings will be located. (Bellevue Gateway is a new mixed-use development located on the campus that will act as both the primary entrance to the University with sports facilities, dining, residential spaces, administration, and parking.)

The Architecture at Zero 2012 competition was designed to support the ambitious action plan on the part of the California Public Utilities Commission that will require all new residential construction in the state to be zero net energy by 2020. (The goal for new commercial construction is to achieve zero net energy by 2030.)

The two top awards in the Architecture At Zero 2012 competition went to a design from a team from Alameda, Cali., and one to a team from Porto, Portugal, reflecting plenty of interest in this competition both at home and abroad.

Cactus design

image via Architecture at Zero 2012

The former design, Silver Streak, makes extensive use of windows for 90 percent natural daylighting and spectrally selective glazing, allowing the heat of the sun to penetrate the structure only where and when desired. Photovoltaic panels double as solar shades, while daylighting controls tied to low wattage LED task lights help to keep energy demands to a bare minimum.

The judge’s panel was comprised of a team of international experts, including Susan Szenasy, editor-in-chief of Metropolis Magazine; Ed Mazria, Founder, Architecture 2030; Alison Kwok, Professor, University of Oregon; and Stephen Selkowitz, Program Head, Building Technologies Department, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. According to the judges, the winning designs in the competition “thoughtfully incorporated elements of energy efficiency, renewable generation and a high-quality architectural design that emphasized sustainability principles.”

All entries can be viewed online, and winning entries will be displayed in the Architecture at Zero 2012 exhibition at AIA San Francisco from November 1 – December 21.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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