How Buildings Can Lead the Way to a Decarbonized Future

A public utilities building in Santa Rosa shows how innovations in architecture and grid management can reduce energy use and prepare buildings for a more sustainable energy future.

1 minute read

November 1, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

The new headquarters of Sonoma Clean Power, a 1979, formerly natural gas-powered structure in Santa Rosa, California, could serve as a model for integrating buildings into sustainable grid management and decarbonizing electric grids.

According to an article by Emily Nonko in Next City, the building is the first completed pilot project in the GridOptimal Buildings Initiative, a partnership between the New Buildings Institute and U.S. Green Building Council. The initiative seeks to develop strategies for easing the transition to more sustainable energy sources.

In addition to ‘passive’ energy-saving components such as an airtight building envelope and solar panels, the building also includes innovative “active” components that interact with the power grid to use energy most efficiently and even put power back into the grid. “The building tracks hourly how much carbon is emitted through the electrical grid. That information informs exactly when the building produces and uses power.” As Nonko explains, the building also stores energy that can be used during power outages or natural disasters. 

“Sonoma Clean Power plans to host students and professional groups, with the idea that the building can also become a teaching tool” for innovative, responsive, and forward-looking grid management solutions.

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