MERCED, Calif. — A global sustainable architecture competition is turning all eyes to the University of California, Merced, the newest campus in the UC system, and the only one to have all its buildings certified by the US Green Building Council as meeting LEED standards.
Architecture at Zero 2012 is a competition in which student and professional participants from around the world are invited to design examples of a new administration or student housing building and a district energy plan using the principles of zero net energy use.
That’s in keeping with the campus’s commitment to sustainability and to producing zero net energy, waste and greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Zero net energy means a building produces as much or more energy than it consumes and is a fundamental of UC Merced’s Triple Zero Commitment  by 2020, an ambitious plan to demonstrate that the campus is at the forefront of sustainability by achieving three goals:
The San Francisco-based chapter of the American Institute for Architecture devised the contest, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is the major sponsor. Jurors will award at least two prizes, one for students and one for professionals, totaling $25,000.
“PG&E is proud to sponsor this year’s Architecture at Zero 2012 competition at UC Merced,” said Steve Malnight, vice president of customer energy solutions for PG&E. “It’s our hope that this competition will inspire the next generation of zero net energy buildings to help achieve California's clean energy future.”
PG&E is a logical sponsor for the competition because of its Zero Net Energy Pilot Program that initiates research, development and demonstration projects, public outreach and educational efforts promoting zero-net-energy building practices. AIASF and PG&E held the inaugural Architecture at Zero competition last year focusing on a redevelopment site in Emeryville.
This year, the groups chose the newest campus in the UC system.
“UC Merced’s ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality within the next decade is awe-inspiring,” said Margie O’Driscoll, executive director of the American Institute of Architects, San Francisco. “In addition, the profound commitment of Associate Vice Chancellor Thomas Lollini to architectural excellence made UC Merced the best possible site for the second Architecture at Zero competition.
“The American Institute of Architects, San Francisco chapter is proud to have managed this competition for PG&E, providing students and professionals with a unique design challenge for a visionary university.”
In addition to designing a building for the campus, contestants in this year’s competition are asked to create a district energy plan for the planned Bellevue Gateway, an area of campus property that someday is likely to be the formal entrance. The contest entries could be used later as a platform for discussions and designs as the campus grows over the years.
“We hope that this gateway can provide a fitting symbol of our commitment to sustainability,” said Lollini, who is a fellow in the AIA and serves as campus architect as well as associate vice chancellor for physical planning, design and construction. Contestants have until Oct. 1 to submit their entries.
The locations from which entries are being submitted shows how far interest in this contest extends – all over the United States and as far away as Switzerland, Rome, New Zealand and Australia. Entries will be judged based on the documentation of the energy performance of each project and on the architectural merit of each design.
Each building design and district energy plan will need to include at least one renewable energy source, said PG&E, such as solar power, wind power, microhydro, geothermal and biomass/biofuel. The judging takes place Oct. 23 on the UC Merced campus and the winners will be announced Oct. 24, the day before the kickoff of Founders Day celebrations honoring the 10th anniversary of the campus’s groundbreaking.
The jurors are:
“We are honored to be selected for this competition, as sustainability is an integral element of UC Merced’s identity,” Lollini said. UC Merced’s commitment to sustainability can be seen throughout the campus, which now has 13 buildings LEED certified silver or better, in its Triple Zero Commitment and in its practices, from water stations and recycling to composting bins and solar energy.