The project created a design prototype for affordable zero carbon emissions office buildings. If built, Net Zero Co2urt would become one of the largest net zero emissions buildings in North America. This experience demonstrated how a net zero emissions or net zero energy goal must be integrated into the building design process and established that a design team must commit to a performance-driven solution at each step of the process.
The process proved that designing an office building — the most universal commercial building type — to be carbon neutral was easier and more affordable than most people believe. By respecting strict performance parameters and using them to inform and guide the design, the resulting site-specific solution also revealed a replicable process that could be applied to most building types and regions across the world.
Detailed cost estimates illustrate that with an estimated construction cost of $223.00 per square foot, this project is marketable and affordable. The payback for the investment required to reach carbon neutrality compared to a LEED certified baseline building would be 12 years if the rise in the cost of fuel outpaced general inflation by 4 percent a year. But the payback would be less than 10 years today in the many other areas of the country where electricity is more expensive.
The design team is applying the knowledge gained and lessons learned from this yearlong research effort and design exercise to push carbon neutral design into the mainstream and, ultimately, help reduce our society’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Architects must embrace the rigor, discipline and opportunities presented by fully integrating daylighting and energy analyses into the entire design process. By developing innovative design solutions around aspirational performance parameters, we can create truly unique and extraordinary zero emissions buildings. We must allow form to follow performance.