BAR submitted the designs of ‘NET BENEFIT’, a net zero student housing community at SFSU, for the 2016 Architecture at Zero design competition presented by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and the American Institute of Architects, California Council (AIACC). Our design weaves together a network of strategies and systems producing multiple environmentally and socially positive outcomes. Conceived as a ‘mesh’ incorporating a warp and weft of multiple interrelated design strands to create delightful spaces for the student community, our net-zero solution also includes careful site response to local energy and water flow, highly efficient building systems, healthy materials and low carbon timber construction.
Net-zero energy is achieved with an integrated, multi-pronged approach. Energy demand is reduced through careful massing, natural cross and stack ventilation with solar chimneys, low energy hydronic heating and geothermal exchange. Remaining energy requirements are met by onsite energy generation including rooftop photovoltaic and solar-thermal panels, bio-gas fuel cells, building integrated wind turbines, and methane capture through sewer mining and anaerobic digestion of wastewater.
Large fog-catching scrims are the most visible signal of our design intentions and a component of our goal to achieve net-zero water. At a location often covered in fog, these dramatic gossamer meshes, facing the prevailing winds, passively collect water ‘out of thin air’ for use on site. These “sails on the horizon” shade western facades and interconnect with gathering spaces and demonstration water gardens. They provide a unique identity for the project and campus, and symbolize the importance of a vigorous environmental design response to a potential future of perpetual drought.