New Net Zero Energy Office Building Challenges Conventional Thinking on Efficiency in the Commercial Sector

Drawing on Passive House strategies, the design sets a regional standard in sustainability—from both economic and performance perspectives

May 26, 2021 - by commARCH
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New Net Zero Energy Office Building Challenges Conventional Thinking on Efficiency in the Commercial Sector

Ashley McGraw Architects has designed a cutting-edge building that achieves a remarkable performance standard: it will generate much more energy than it consumes. Working with the goal set by the Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF), a new Net Zero Energy office building was designed and built to demonstrate that a Net Zero Energy approach can be used for a leasable office building for a similar development cost to comparable office buildings.


Image Credits: Halkin | Mason Photography

 

Why is this project significant?

Drawing on Passive House strategies, the design sets a regional standard in sustainability - from both economic and performance perspectives. The SEF building will consume about 75% less energy comparable commercial structures in the region while generating 30% more energy than it needs- on site!

“This project provides a blueprint for achieving net-positive energy within the financial structure of a speculative building,” said Andrew Schuster, an Ashley McGraw Principal and leader of the firm’s commercial architecture practice. “We were excited to collaborate with a client like SEF who set this bold goal and shares our commitment to regenerative design and the proven value it offers to all stakeholders.”

Click here to see photos of the new Sustainable Energy Fund office building


Image Credits: Halkin | Mason Photography

 

What strategies were used to make the project successful?

Several design and technological strategies were deployed for achieving this high standard of efficiency while delivering the project within budget limitations:

The building is oriented carefully on a former apple orchard to take maximum advantage of sun and shade.  It’s surfaces and openings are positioned to minimize energy expenditures while enhancing the interior environment.

An array of photovoltaic panels mounted on the roof of the single-story building will generate all necessary energy for the operation of the facility, with 30% excess to sell back to the utility.

The building envelope is designed for high performance, with continuous insulation and an an air leakage rate below the Passive House US standard of 0.08CFM.

All building systems—from HVAC to plumbing to electrical and lighting—are selected and engineered for optimal balance between cost and performance.


Image Credits: Halkon | Mason Photography

 

Why is the building needed?

Located in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, it is the first and only net-positive building in this traditional steel-producing region. It will provide over 12,000 square feet of leasable office space and offers shared amenity spaces for tenants, including a conference room/classroom, kitchen, and restrooms.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Andrew Schuster of Ashley McGraw, please contact Derek Goodroe, goodroe@ashleymcgraw.com, (315) 529-6384.
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