Loisos + Ubbelohde just received the highest award at the 2012 Architecture at Zero competition for their proposal, ‘Silver Streak’. The contest, sponsored by PG&E and AIA San Francisco, was conceived as a response to the lofty zero net energy targets set out by the California Public Utility Commission. As the recipient of one of two honor awards, their design for the University of California, Merced campus features an administration building that acts as both a threshold to campus and an energy field in the large plane of the agricultural valley. More images and architects’ description after the break.
By encouraging innovative design solutions to site-specific design challenges, the competition aimed to broaden thinking about the technical and aesthetic possibilities of zero net energy projects. The design welcomes the visitor with an open and informal presence through curvilinear pavilions on the ground floor. The snaking form above inflects to the larger open spaces of the campus, leading the eye along a diagonal axis from the symbolic oak entrance, past the athletic fields, the academic quad, and beyond to the Sierras.
A screen of vertical silver PV fins supplements electricity generated by rooftop PV arrays to produce 120% of the energy used by this building annually. The screen provides shade and daylight to the flexible and narrow office floors. From their desks, occupants can view both north to the campus and south across agricultural fields, remaining connected to the sky and the outside weather throughout the workday.
The office floors balance the varied daily, seasonal and annual requirements for heating, cooling, and lighting. In the spring and fall, almost no active systems are necessary because cross ventilation provides fresh air and daylight sufficiently illuminates the workstations. On hot or cold days, radiant tubes in the ceiling create pleasant transitional conditions. For further tempering, personal environmental controls are located in each workstation, enabling each individual to control the supply of warm or cool air. A ground-coupled heat exchanger, paired with renewable fuel supplied from rice hulls and PVs, allows the building to operate exclusively on renewable sources and to be a net energy generator for the campus grid.