Architecture at Zero

San Francisco , USA

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AJ+C submitted an entry in the Architecture at Zero 2016 competition for a 2630-bed zero net energy student housing campus at San Francisco State University in California. Attracting entries from across the globe, Architecture at Zero is an annual competition with a focus on developing new concepts for energy efficient building design.

The zero net energy strategy included a response to the cool, foggy climate of San Francisco which precluded the usual response of using photovoltaic cells or solar hot water.

AJ+C’s strategy, developed in conjunction with Arup, focussed instead on maximising natural light within the buildings, processing waste into energy using a biodigester, harvesting water from the prevailing fog and creating high quality outdoor environments through well oriented courtyards sheltered from the prevailing cold northerly winds.

The curvilinear plan of the buildings arose from a desire to maximise solar access to all rooms which would reduce energy use for lighting and heating. The northern facades undulate in plan so that the few north facing rooms catch east and west sun and benefit from as much solar access as possible.

Instead of the usual artificially lit corridors, AJ+C opened up the middle of each building to form a series of atria, which allowed natural light into the centre of the buildings and then through innovative translucent walls into the circulation spaces within each apartment.

The brief included a central dining hall, a childcare centre, lecture theatres, meeting rooms and a cafe.

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