A group of local architecture firms will soon receive the inaugural round of Net Zero Emerging Leaders Internship Grants from the Energy Trust of Oregon, allowing them to provide internships for students and teach them more about net zero design and the American Institute of Architects 2030 Commitment.
The AIA 2030 Commitment offers a way for architecture firms to show their dedication to a carbon-neutral future. Participants report and share their data through the AIA Design Data Exchange platform on building type, area, baseline energy performance and predicted energy performance so others can determine best practices and compare project performance.
Jessica Iplikci, New Buildings program manager for Energy Trust, said the grants will help create opportunities for architecture students to learn more about net zero building design while gaining hands-on experience.
"The interns will be expected to share the knowledge gained to their peers and the larger design community at a High-Performance Design Training event at the conclusion of their internship," she said.
This month and next, Energy Trust will award up to five grants, of up to $6,000 each, for the 12-week internships, which will run from January-April 2019. Eligible firms had to be located and designing buildings in Oregon and be an AIA 2030 Commitment signatory.
The grants are part of Energy Trust's Path to Net Zero initiative. Net zero design refers to zero-energy buildings, which are structures that produce enough renewable energy to meet their own annual energy consumption requirements and reduce the use of nonrenewable energy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's definition.
"Buildings use a lot of energy and net zero gives the architecture community a way to design buildings in a different way that allows them to reduce their carbon footprint," Iplikci said. "It really helps us in the design community to cultivate these new types of net zero strategies that create new standards for net zero design."
Spurred by the net zero initiative at the national level, Energy Trust launched its Path to Net Zero initiative in 2009 with a pilot project, the June Key Delta house in North Portland. Through the initiative, Energy Trust provides guidance and financial incentives to support the design and construction of high-performance buildings that surpass Oregon's building energy code.
New commercial construction projects that are part of the initiative aim to exceed energy code by 40 percent through a combination of energy-efficiency and renewable energy features. The annual energy savings for these projects totaled just over 2.8 million kilowatt hours and 87,000 therms of natural gas.
By the end of 2017, Energy Trust had 16 Path To Net Zero projects completed. They include health centers, wastewater treatment plants and low-income housing. Among them are a trio of elementary schools for the Reynolds School District. Iplikci said a traditional school would score a 50 on an energy-use scale and a school built according to the Path to Net Zero can cut that score in half.
Another example is the Oregon Zoo's Education Center, which was designed to earn net zero energy building certification from the Living Future Institute. Its solar panel array allows it to produce as much electricity as it uses. Other elements that help save energy include high-efficiency lighting and HVAC systems that are controlled by a digital control system and radiant floor heating in the Nature Exploration Station.
Iplikci said Energy Trust is working on about 70 projects with net zero goals.
"There has been a really positive response because it's a new and exciting way to think about how to design more energy-efficient buildings with a smaller energy footprint," she said. "A longer-term goal is the 2030 Challenge and we're trying to engage the community to aim for those net zero goals and get there in time."
Last August, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and 18 other mayors around the world signed a pledge that all new buildings in the city and all city-owned buildings would meet the 2030 Challenge by being net zero carbon by 2030. The pledge also states that all buildings in the city, old and new, will be net zero carbon by 2050.
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