From the diverse array of exterior building materials to the highly energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems, every building component contributes to the net-zero energy goal. (Photo by Ted van der Linden)
The building combines a complex network of energy-efficient building systems, green construction approaches and materials, and solar energy generating features. (Photo by Ted van der Linden)

A Replicable Model for Sustainability: Packard Foundation Building Targets Net-Zero Energy

When the David and Lucile Packard Foundation first began planning a new Bay Area office building in 2007, the goal was to build a net-zero energy facility that would advance its philanthropic commitment to environmental stewardship and offer a replicable model for attaining the highest level of sustainable development in a commercial office building.

Team Players

Project: Packard Foundation Headquarters

Customer: For more than 45 years, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has worked with partners around the world to improve the lives of children, families, and communities—and to restore and protect our planet.

Architect: EHDD

Project Milestone: On June 29th, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s new Bay Area headquarters. DPR’s Mike Humphrey, regional manager, and Mike Messick, project manager, participated in a team roundtable discussion at the event. “Today marks the celebration of a traditional milestone for what has been anything but a traditional project,” said Humphrey. Attendees of the ceremony were treated to a building tour, led by EHDD, and enjoyed a cake replica of the building.

This summer, the Packard Foundation celebrated the completion and opening of its new, soon-to-be LEED® Platinum-certified, net-zero-energy-designed building in Los Altos, CA.

The new building also represents one of DPR’s first ground-up, net-zero energy projects, as well as one of the first of its size and type in the nation. According to a recent report and press release from Pike Research, a cleantech market intelligence firm, zero-energy buildings constitute only a small fraction of the overall green building market today. However, worldwide revenue from zero-energy buildings will grow rapidly over the next two decades, reaching almost $690 billion by 2020 and $1.3 trillion by 2035.

Designed by EHDD, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation building combines a complex network of energy-efficient building systems, sustainable materials, green construction approaches and solar-energy-generating features, which together are expected to reduce energy demand by 65 percent. The remaining energy use will be offset through on-site power generation.

The 50,000-sq.-ft., two-story wood and steel structure seamlessly blends into the surrounding natural environment, presenting an understated yet elegant aesthetic that belies the complexity of the project’s design components and construction processes. From the diverse array of exterior building materials, including aluminum, glazing, copper panels, stone, stone veneer and wood siding—all carefully overlaid to form a highly rated thermal exterior skin—to the highly energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems, to the rooftop photovoltaic panels that generate on-site energy, every building component contributes to the net-zero energy goal.

“While many of these diverse systems have been used before separately, it was a pioneering effort in terms of putting them all into one place,” commented Kaitlin Murchison, senior project engineer for DPR.

DPR began the project in early 2010 by deconstructing and then recycling some 96 percent of six existing structures on site prior to construction start. According to DPR Project Manager Mike Messick, the team faced a major challenge with construction of the exterior skin, which required intensive sequencing among the various trades to ensure that it was built to the designer’s specifications to help achieve the net-zero goal.

“The waterproofing system, as well as the thermal insulation of the exterior skin, was really crucial and extremely complicated, because there were so many different materials and intersections coming together,” he said. To accomplish that, DPR first constructed a full-size mock-up section. “We were able to ferret out a lot of the sequencing issues of putting together such a complex skin system,” Messick said.

The complexity and innovation of the exterior also carried over into the interior mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems. Low-energy equipment and advanced heating and cooling methods were incorporated, including a chilled-beam system. Condenser water is collected from evaporative heating and cooling towers and stored in two underground 25,000-gallon chilled-water tanks. The chilled water is then pumped through chilled beams running throughout the building, which cool the air on the spot. This system allows for much smaller air-handling units (AHUs) than are required in a traditional system.

For building irrigation and plumbing, two 10,000-gallon underground tanks capture rainwater that is then reused on site, reducing total new water demand by an estimated 40 percent.

Myriad other green features contribute to the efficiencies, including automatic operating shades and exterior blinds that control lighting depending on the exterior environment. All the building systems are electronically synchronized through a master “SCADA” system, which generates data that the building’s facilities manager can use to ensure operations are meeting the net-zero goal.

For the DPR team, the project has proven both unique and educational. “It’s been great to work on a project with such admirable goals, and then to take what we’ve learned and bring those concepts to our future work,” said Murchison.

The end result has more than met the owner’s hopes and expectations, according to Linda Rhodes of Rhodes Dahl, the owner’s representative for the Packard Foundation. “Our design and construction teams have been excellent partners in the project, which we feel is an essential element of our replicable success,” she said.

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