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Achieving a Zero Net Energy Footprint

Posted : November 9, 2011 by , Category: Sustainability

Zero net energy. It’s the buzzword for office buildings, residential developments, individual homes and schools. And a recent Los Angeles area design firm — The Swift Lee Office — is earning recognition for its public school building prototype.

A recent article in LiveGreen outlines some of the specifics for a school building design completed by the architecture firm, and the various elements the design incorporates in order to achieve a sustainable, zero net energy footprint. What I found most interesting from this article was the fact that Swift Lee considered the entire lifecycle of the building in their design.

A best practices approach will be applied to minimize the amount of waste during construction, the structure will achieve net zero energy while in operation and can be largely recycled once it is dismantled.

I think Swift Lee hit the nail on the head. This holistic approach is the key to sustainable design. It’s not just about designing for today. Because if we’ve learned anything from the past, it’s that things change. The way we design and create buildings today, while leaps and bounds ahead of where we were even just a few years ago, will likely change again over the next decade. We’ll discover new technologies and ways of designing, and just that like, what was “revolutionary” in 2011 will be obsolete then. But we’ve been given the opportunity to design our buildings to be the complete package, and the ability to use technology to advance the entire design process.

I’m looking forward to following this story and to seeing the completed school projects in Los Angeles. My hope is that The Swift Lee Office model catches on, and that more designers look at the whole picture when designing, not just for today — but for the future.

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