American Institute of Architects, San Francisco Chapter

Architecture at Zero

Architecture at Zero from TAG film on Vimeo.

Presented by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and AIA San Francisco, Architecture at Zero is an international architectural design competition open to students and professionals worldwide. Zero net energy (ZNE) design competitions are intended to encourage architecture, engineering, and planning firms (and students in those fields) to create ZNE developments and buildings. The goal of the competitions is to promote and disseminate information on ZNE best practices in the building and development communities.

2013: The Tenderloin

The 2013 Architecture at Zero challenge is to design a new, roughly 150 unit mixed-use residential apartment building located in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. The building must be a mix of affordable and market rate housing units, include a full neighborhood-serving grocery store on the ground level, and be plausibly designed as close to zero net energy as possible.

Read: Think Global, Act Local: Young architects deploy new tools to advance common values on Architectural Record


Bob Berkebile, FAIA (Principal, BNIM Architects)
Edward Mazria (Founder, Architecture 2030)
Cathleen McGuigan (Editor-in-Chief, Architectural Record)
Paul Torcellini (Principal Engineer, National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
Paulett Taggart, FAIA (Principal, Paulett Taggart Architects)

Click below to visit the Architecture at Zero website and learn more about the 2013 winners.

View winners

2012: University of California, Merced

The 2012 design challenge was a zero net energy (ZNE) student housing or administrative office building design for the University of California, Merced. As part of the challenge, entrants will also be asked to create a diagrammatic district energy plan for the Bellevue Gateway development. The buildings will be part of the Bellevue Gateway, a new mixed-use development located on the campus that will act as both the primary entrance to the University and as a bustling center of activity with sports facilities, dining, residential spaces, administration, and parking. Learn more.


Alison Kwok, professor, University of Oregon
Ed Mazria, founder, Architecture 2030
Stephen Selkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Susan Szenasy, editor in chief, Metropolis magazine

View Winners

2011: Emeryville

The design site for Architecture At Zero 2011 was an industrial urban infill site in Emeryville, California. The design challenge was to create a mixed-use building or set of buildings that included 240 residential housing units, one 1200 square foot retail space and a 4000 square foot new public library branch. As part of the competition, all building designs were required to be grid-tied and reasonably demonstrate the competition’s criteria for zero net energy; that the energy use of the building(s) and its occupants be less than or equal to the energy produced by on-site renewable generation, as measured over a calendar year.

The competitors also met specific program criteria chosen from the City of Emeryville’s general and specific area plans, including open space requirements for the site, and the extension of the street grid into the site.


Bob Berkebile, FAIA, BNIM Architects
Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA, Brooks + Scarpa Architecture
Stephen Selkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Susan Szenasy, editor in chief, Metropolis magazine
Allison Williams, FAIA, Perkins + Will

View Winners