Net zero energy 'masterpiece' set to receive Living Building certification

Although Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center is considered a major landmark in the green building movement, it wasn't enough for the eco-loving team behind the project. Now, thanks to SmithGroup JJR architects and Hourigan Construction, the building, a net zero energy and net zero water masterpiece, is about to receive the world's most prestigious accolade in sustainable building: a Living Building certification, reports the website Inhabitat.

The ambitious project was designed to be a model for future sustainability, CBF Hampton Roads Director Christy Everett said.

The 10,500-square-foot center was built to provide all of its water and energy needs on site, while composting 100 percent of its building and human waste. To date, the building currently generates 80 percent more power than it uses, thanks to its 168 rooftop solar panels and two wind turbines. Additionally energy advantageous is the strategic orientation of the structure, which uses ambient wind currents for natural cooling and circulation during the hot summer months. All of the center’s energy generation and use can be seen in real time at the building’s public energy dashboard, Inhabitat reports.

To help with its zero-waste objective, the building is equipped with composting toilets and even urine is collected and turned into green fertilizer that is then sold at local nurseries. The center is also the first commercial building in the U.S. to be granted a special permit that allows for the collection and reuse of rainwater for all of its water needs, including drinking water, Inhabitat reports. The system uses large cisterns to collect rainwater, which is then treated to meet safety standards set by EPA’s Safe Water Drinking Act, as well as local safety standards.

Set on a coastal marshland, the building not only needs to be storm resilient, but also prepared for the inevitable rise of sea levels. The Virginia Beach region is expected to sea at least a one meter rise by 2100. Accordingly, the Brock Center was built almost 14 feet above sea level so that it would be able to withstand future storm surges.

For a building to be awarded a Living Building certification, it must be able to perform up to International Living Future Institute’s standards for 12 months. The Brock Center’s 12-month test period ended in late March, at which point, the Future Living Institute audited the center to ensure it met all of the strict environmental criteria required to achieve certification.


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