Green: Net Zero Energy, Transmuted Into Art – New York Times

By KIRK JOHNSON
Published: February 15, 2011
The National Renewable Energy Lab’s new hyper-efficient office building in Golden, Colo., is meant to inspire builders and architects with the notion that net zero energy use is not only attainable but also affordable and even elegant.

The relationship and, often as not, tension between hardheaded engineers and design-conscious architects is woven into the fabric of every great building.

But a question kept coming back to me on a recent day I spent inside the National Renewable Energy Lab’s new hyper-efficient office building in Golden, Colo., to report this article: Is there a place where pure function, distilled and crystallized into 1,000 tiny number-driven decisions, becomes art?

The $64 million Research Support building opened last year as a kind of physical assertion by the Energy Department, the lab’s parent agency, that office space can be driven down to zero net energy use through a combination of on-site energy production (rooftop solar) and fanatical attention to detail everywhere else in how the building saves and sips energy as a workplace for 800 engineers, managers and support staff members.

Patrick Andrade for The New York Times Photovoltaic panels soak up the first rays of sunrise on the roof of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s new hyperefficient office building in Golden, Colo.
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