Hines’ ‘net zero’ building: LPL Financial at La Jolla Commons
The future of green building calls for more than reduced energy usage. The next step could be to transform buildings into so-called net-zero buildings—structures that create more energy than they use and deliver the excess power back to the grid.

“Buildings are not going to be just users of energy, but sources of energy,” says Arah Schuur, acting program manager at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Commercial Building Integration Program.

Hines is undertaking the largest and most ambitious of the new net-zero energy-producing buildings in the United States—a 13-story office tower in San Diego. The 415,000-square-foot (38,555 sq m) building, slated for completion in 2014, will employ high-performance design and on-site fuel cells that will convert methane gas into electricity. The building has been christened LPL Financial at La Jolla Commons.

Hines regards the San Diego project as a research-and-development effort that will lead to advancement with future net-zero projects, says Gary Holtzer, Hines’s global sustainability officer. Building a net-zero structure in the temperate climate of southern California is one thing, Holtzer says, but it will be more challenging to “go net-zero” in places with more extreme temperatures.

The building design incorporates a highly efficient under-floor air system, advanced curtain wall materials, and many other features that reduce the energy required to operate the building. The fuel cells, acquired from Bloom Energy, will generate approximately 5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is more than what the building will consume. Total on-site energy production will be roughly equivalent to generating the electricity required to power 1,000 San Diego homes. The fuel cells convert methane into electricity in a noncombustion process. Sufficient methane for the system will be acquired from carbon-neutral sources, such as landfills and wastewater plants, and placed into the national natural gas pipeline system. This system will contribute to California’s ambitious goal of deriving a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Find out more about other interesting projects in the San Diego area at the ULI Spring Meeting from May 15-17.

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