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Breaking Down Net Zero

At Bisnow's Construction & Development event at Hotel Nikko earlier this month, we invited some of the top players in the net zero space to chat about the new frontier of sustainability. DPR Construction director Ted van der Linden has done a lot of green buildings to date (DPR's office is inside S.F.'s net zero building at 945 Front). These days the goal is to find "bad buildings" that need another life, he says, citing a project in San Diego. He says spaces up and down the I-5, 101 and 10 have lots of opportunities to be designed well and be net zero.

Point Energy Innovations CEO Peter Rumsey chatted about his involvement in the most sustainable project to hit Silicon Valley yet. (We just did a piece on the project at 1400 Page Mill Rd, teed up to deliver this summer.) Peter says the project is a preview of what the norm will be come 2030, when all new commercial construction will be net zero. Tenants are already clued into the performance of a building these days and want to be in green ones—which can lead to premium rates for landlords.

EBS principal Matt Macko, who moderated, walks the talk because his office is also inside the net zero 945 Front building. He points out that Peter has been pioneering the net zero space for some time. Peter says the goal is to generate as much energy on site as is used in the building. Definitions of net zero buildings are evolving, and in California by 2020 all new residential will be net zero, but targets vary by state. Even the language differs coast to coast (at a recent conference in DC, Peter realized East Coasters call it zero net vs. our net zero).

HKS SVP Brendan Dunnigan names one client that said LEED was not enough. The buzzword is "regenerative," which means you are producing enough energy to put back into the grid. He says it was great to have a client that pushes you beyond comfort levels.

EHDD senior associate Brad Jacobson has the most net zero buildings under his belt. Ten years ago he started with "net zero 1.0," which was a tiny visitors center in LA. Fast forward to the "2.0" days and he's got a 50k SF ground-up office building (the largest net zero one to date). In Boulder he's doing a spec office intended to be net zero partly because the developer sees it as a great financial model for the long term.