HOK / Vanderweil Net-Zero Building Retrofit Proposal Wins Competition
Solution Proposes Energy-Generating Algae to Power 1960s-Era GSA Office Building in Los Angeles

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Architects and engineers from HOK / Vanderweil showcased their creativity and sustainable design expertise with a winning net-zero building retrofit design in Metropolis magazine’s eight-annual Next Generation® Design Competition. Young designers were challenged to develop net-zero energy solutions for a 46-year-old federal office building in downtown Los Angeles.

HOK / Vanderweil’s “Process Zero: Retrofit Resolution,” a retrofit design process, reduces the building’s overall energy demand by 84 percent while generating the remaining 16 percent on-site. The design uses proven energy conservation and renewal strategies, including atria and light wells that bring daylight into workspaces; integrated louvers for natural ventilation; a new façade with 35,000 square feet of photovoltaic film; 30,000 square feet of rooftop solar collectors that circulate water through floors to help with climate control; and office equipment operated by a cloud computing system.

The design team’s breakthrough idea, believed to be an architectural first, uses energy-producing microalgae to help power the building. The biomimetic-inspired design proposes a 25,000-square-foot microalgae bioreactor system that generates 9 percent of the renovated federal building’s power supply. A modular system of algae tubes wrap the building and absorb the sun’s radiation to produce lipids for fuel production on site, simultaneously shading interior office spaces. This photobioreactor transforms the building into a living entity.

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Interview with HOK PM and lead architect Sean Quinn:
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