New San Diego Office Building Exposes the Fallacy of the Net-Zero Label

Lloyd Alter dismantles the aggrandizement of the new LPL Financial building being developed by Hines in La Jolla, California, which a recent press release touts as the "Largest Net-Zero Energy Commercial Office Building in U.S."

The obstacles to creating a "true net-zero building, one that literally generates as much or more energy than it consumes," are substantial. So it should come as a positive sign that one of the country's largest names in development is constructing a run-of-the-mill Class A office building to such stringent standards, right?

It turns out the building is only modestly better than a normal modern Class A building on the energy demand side. It achieves its energy neutrality by using fuel cells from Bloom Energy that run on natural gas from carbon-neutral sources.

"Huh? Burning gas generated from carbon-neutral sources makes it net-zero-energy?" asks Alter. "Apparently yes. Reading the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Net Zero Energy Buildings: A Classification System Based on Renewable Energy Supply Options [PDF], one finds that there is a hierarchy of categories and options, the last being Purchasing offsite renewable resources."

"The actual building is no more Net-Zero Energy than my big drafty old house," exclaims Alter. "Readers will no doubt complain that once again I am letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, that this is a step in the right direction. It is; the building is more efficient than most, and Bloom Boxes may be slightly greener than getting electricity from the typical California energy mix."

"But calling it Net-Zero energy is a joke."

Full Story: Is Hines La Jolla Project America's Largest Net-Zero Energy Office Building? Yes, And That's A Problem

Comments

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245
AICP CTP Storefont Display

The first online AICP* CTP exam prep class

Are you ready to take the AICP* Certified Transportation Planner exam?
Priced at $245 for May exam!
Red necktie with map of Boston

Tie one on to celebrate your city

Choose from over 20 styles of neckties imprinted with detailed city or transit maps.
$44.95
DVD Cover of The Story of Sprawl

The Story of Sprawl

See how America changed shape in this collection of historic films that visually document how sprawl evolved.
$29.99 for 2-DVD SET