Ashley McGraw Architects has designed a cutting-edge building that achieves a remarkable performance standard: it will generate much more energy than it consumes. Working with the goal set by the Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF), a new Net Zero Energy office building was designed and built to demonstrate that a Net Zero Energy approach can be used for a leasable office building for a similar development cost to comparable office buildings.
“This project provides a blueprint for achieving net-positive energy within the financial structure of a speculative building,” said Andrew Schuster, an Ashley McGraw Principal and leader of the firm’s commercial architecture practice. “We were excited to collaborate with a client like SEF who set this bold goal and shares our commitment to regenerative design and the proven value it offers to all stakeholders.”
Drawing on Passive House strategies, the design sets a regional standard in sustainability—from both economic and performance perspectives. The SEF Net Zero Energy office building will consume about 75% less energy comparable to commercial structures in the region while generating 30% more energy than it needs—on site. Several design and technological strategies were deployed for achieving this standard of efficiency while delivering the project within budget limitations:
- The building is oriented carefully on a former apple orchard to take maximum advantage of sun and shade. It’s surfaces and openings are positioned to minimize energy expenditures while enhancing the interior environment.
- An array of photovoltaic panels mounted on the roof of the single-story building will generate all necessary energy for the operation of the facility, with 30% excess to sell back to the utility.
- The building envelope is designed for high performance, with continuous insulation and an air leakage rate below the Passive House US standard of 0.08CFM75.
- All building systems—from HVAC to plumbing to electrical and lighting—are selected and engineered for optimal balance between cost and performance.
Located in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, it is the first and only net-positive building in this traditional steel-producing region. It will provide over 12,000 square feet of leasable office space and offers shared amenity spaces for tenants, including a conference room/classroom, kitchen, and restrooms.