Whitepaper Watch: Leading the Way to Net-Zero Energy Buildings

Net-zero energy buildings produce as much or more energy than they consume. DPR’s Phoenix office achieved net-zero energy building certification from the ILFI’s Living Building Challenge. (Photo by Gregg Mastorakos)

Proving net-zero energy building status, DPR’s Phoenix regional office certified by the International Living Future Institute—world’s largest building to register for and achieve rare distinction

What’s the next step in the sustainability charge? If the DPR Phoenix regional office is any indication, it’s net-zero energy buildings, a new generation of high-performance buildings that produce as much or more energy than they consume through onsite renewables.

While still somewhat rare in the green building sector, this type of building is poised for growth. In fact, worldwide revenue from net-zero energy buildings is projected to expand rapidly over the next two decades and reach $1.3 trillion by the year 2035, according to Navigant Research.


Described as the “workplace of the future,” DPR’s LEED® Platinum certified for New Construction (NC), 16,533-sq.-ft. office received net-zero energy building certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) as part of its Living Building Challenge 2.1. Launched in 2011, the Living Building Challenge is one of the built environment’s most rigorous performance standards. It calls for the “creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture.” To be certified, projects must meet a series of performance requirements, including net-zero energy, waste and water, over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.


DPR chronicled its dark green journey in a case study, “The Path to Net-Zero Energy.” It demonstrates how a highly collaborative, experienced team can attain net-zero energy operations, even within a desert environment. The study also illustrates how the team transformed an underutilized structure into a model of sustainable development and urban renewal. It’s the world’s largest building to register for and achieve the certification from the ILFI. To date, there are only four ILFI-certified net-zero energy buildings in the world.

Created to be a living lab for the community, the space was designed by SmithGroupJJR. It showcases the latest sustainable concepts, including: Solatubes® that provide daylight and reduce the need for artificial light; a vampire shut-off switch that disconnects 90 percent of plug loads each day; and a photovoltaic system that generated more than 140,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in the office’s first year.

The unique experience of being both owner and contractor in creating these high-performance spaces helps keep the company on the leading edge of sustainability. DPR’s Phoenix office is the company’s second net-zero energy office space (although the first to achieve certification). In 2010, DPR’s San Diego office achieved both LEED Platinum certification for New Construction from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and net-zero energy status, which helped pave the way for the sustainability strategies used in Phoenix.

Read “The Path to Net-Zero Energy” in its entirety.

Watch green videos filmed at the Phoenix office.