What can design do to help prepare for a net-zero future? SUNY Polytechnic University set out to explore what’s possible with its ZEN building. The flagship of SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering campus, the Zero Energy Nanotechnology (ZEN) Building is the largest zero-energy-capable, mixed-use facility in the United States.
Supporting a campus of 4,000 scientists, engineers, faculty, and students, the ZEN Building includes industry-partner offices and spaces for research, development, and teaching. But at 363,000 square feet, ZEN’s stature hints at an even greater purpose: to prove that an integrated design process — leveraging powerful tools and affordable technologies — can lead to net-zero capable energy performance.
Working with New York State’s Energy Research and Development Authority, the team’s integrated approach began with gathering to collaborate and using sophisticated energy modeling software to evaluate hundreds of design options, arriving at the most energy-efficient bundle of features.
These models informed the doughnut-shaped building configuration with a central, 10,000-square-foot atrium. Covered with an ultra-lightweight roof, the atrium allows natural light to flood interior offices. Most spaces don’t need additional lighting for day-to-day activities.
But, if you do need a little extra illumination, efficiency is key. A radio-frequency identification card turns lights on and off as you navigate the building. The team’s combination of approaches reduces lighting electricity needs by 70%, saving money and energy while promoting wellness and productivity.
The design employs other renewable energy resources. A 2.4 megawatt, offsite photovoltaic farm and pilot-scale fuel cells reduce the building’s overall energy consumption by 59.4%. Reclaimed heat from the data center will eventually offset winter heating loads. With these measures in place, SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s net-zero future is well within sight.
- 6 Stories
- 10,000 GSF Community Hub
- 363,000 GSF New Construction
We are laying the groundwork for the adoption of technologies that can transform the way we think about buildings and decrease the amount of energy they require.