One of the most cutting-edge trends in sustainable construction is net-zero energy building. Simply put, net-zero buildings produce as much energy as they use, thanks to a host of environmentally friendly features—and high among them is solar power.
The largest net-zero commercial property in the United States, the 415,000-square-foot, 13-story La Jolla Commons, is currently under construction in San Diego. But there are a handful of net-zero properties either built or in the planning stages in the Los Angeles area. Among them:
- The Student Success and Retention Center at East Los Angeles College. This $55 million project under construction is designed by HGA Architects and Engineers. Solar power, generated from parking lot carports, will be a key factor in achieving net-zero status at this 136,000-square-foot building, along with the use of natural light, motorized windows to improve ventilation, and cooling systems in the ceilings. The building will include classrooms, faculty offices, learning labs, and outdoor teaching spaces. HGA used 3-D building information modeling as well as wind and daylight studies to design the facility. The company has two other net-zero projects: the College of the Desert West Valley campus in Palm Springs and Los Angeles Harbor College Sciences Complex.
- Pierce College Maintenance & Operations Facility and Net-Zero Central Plant. Plans for this property in the Los Angeles Community College District include a 42,000-square-foot building and an 85,000-square-foot maintenance yard. The project will meet or exceed LEED Gold standards in addition to being a net-zero energy facility, which includes a photovoltaic farm.
- Morphosis office building. This Culver City complex boasts a 2,800-square-foot solar array on its parking canopy to generate power. Steel shades, windcatchers, and solid east and south building facades help control the building's climate.
- Audubon Center at Ernest E. Debs Regional Park. The park's interpretive center, at just over 5,000 square feet, was built in 2003. The 282-acre park near downtown Los Angeles is run by the city's Parks and Recreation Department, which leases the center to Audubon. The center is billed as the nation's first certified LEED Platinum building and the first in Los Angeles to run entirely on solar power generated onsite.
- Challengers Tennis Club for Boys and Girls. The club's two-story, 3,500-square-foot recreation center was completed in 2002. The facility in South-Central Los Angeles currently gets 100 percent of its energy from a rooftop solar array. Several other green features, such as motion-sensor lighting and energy-efficient appliances, help the center use 60 percent less energy than a comparable building.