Our inSOLAR ™ Office Building

alternative_energy_designs_office_2This 4800sf office building incorporates the natural resources of the site and uses solar energy as the primary source for heating, lighting and power to help minimize the building’s carbon footprint. In addition to serving as our offices, this building serves as a working model for us to demonstrate how our inSolar ™ system can provide an aesthetic, sustainably designed structure that is environmentally responsible and energy efficient.

Much of the power requirements for the building are met by harnessing the sun’s energy through the use of photovoltaic collection panels. Space heating is satisfied by a solar thermal collector system delivering heat to a radiant floor system. Natural daylight illuminates interior spaces through the use of clerestory windows reducing power consumption during the day.

Space cooling is achieved by using an earth-coupled cooling plenum. During the day air is circulated through the plenum for cooling. After hours the building is flushed with cool, outside air circulated through the plenum to evacuate the heat out through the clerestory windows. Constructed with insulated concrete forms (ICF) combined with the sub-grade of the building also works as a passive cooling system. Large overhangs and porches are used to help shade the exterior walls and glazing during the summer. The building is also elongated towards the east to help minimize the surface area that would have a western exposure.

Huge granite boulder outcroppings made up nearly one fourth of the site. Instead of blasting, the existing rock was incorporated into the building’s design and landscape. Moveable boulders were used for foundation and landscaping retaining walls. Natural rock outcroppings that were too large to move, became the predominate feature in the entry landscape scheme and are featured in the reception area. A waterfall type of drainage system was created to provide a groundwater recharge retention basin. This allows rainwater from the roof drain system to be diverted into a catch basin while creating a focal point and unique feature to the building. Other existing features incorporated into the design were two small giant sequoias at the entrance and several other mature trees to the east and south.

Many recycled and reclaimed materials were used. The porch, which protects the building’s glass entry from the summer heat, was built with 130 year old recycled timbers that came from a railroad trestle located outside Riverbank. A “vein” of quartz that was harvested from a local gold mine site was designed into the landscape drainage system. Recycled cast iron brake drums create the unique look of the lighting fixtures used in the main entry.

An abundance of plant life over the work stations, together with stained concrete floors and formaldehyde free counter tops are just some of the solutions used to reduce air particulates and increase the overall air quality within the building. Greater air circulation is achieved by exhausting the air from the under floor plenum out through the attic and the high ceilings create a more open feeling to the space.

By finding energy efficient solutions to solve the problems encountered in designing a commercial office space, this building not only helps in achieving a net zero carbon footprint, but is a prototype of how we can achieve energy efficiency and sustainability without giving up aesthetics and a quality environment.