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HGA to design "Net Zero-plus" desert college campus


October 18, 2012

Conceptual image of HGA's Palm Springs campus design (Image copyright HGA Architects and Engineers)

Conceptual image of HGA's Palm Springs campus design (Image copyright HGA Architects and Engineers)

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Images have been released of a design for the College of the Desert's new self-sustaining "Net Zero-plus" campus to be built at Palm Springs. The "Net Zero-plus" refers to the design's aim of generating more energy than it uses.

Central to HGA Architects and Engineers' master plan, and its Net Zero-plus aspirations, is the construction of a 60-acre acre solar farm directly next to the extended campus, which will sell surplus energy to Southern California Edison to provide energy to the Coachella Valley, creating a valuable revenue stream for the college.

The campus development itself will add 420,000 ft2 (39,000 m2) of academic space and an additional 230,000 ft2 (21,000 m2) of leasable space to be used as an incubator for start-up businesses as well as for academic purposes.

Visualization of a new courtyard at the campus (Image copyright HGA Architects and Engineers)

To maximize revenues from the solar farm, the energy consumption of the new campus will need to be kept to a minimum. To that end HGA says it is "researching and testing integrated systems to improve building performance, including facades that minimize heat gain, energy-efficient mechanical systems, photovoltaic solar panels, storm-water reservoirs for evaporative cooling, shading and day lighting techniques, wind protection, and desert landscaping with seasonal plantings." The detail is yet to be established, however.

HGA claims to have arranged the campus to create microclimates, using buildings as wind breaks. Perforated metal panels are to be employed, allowing through breezes but affording protection from stronger winds.

Sources: HGA Architects and Engineers and Buildipedia

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

ETA on the ROI?

Bob Flint

To tie in with Bob's question on the ROI, do their numbers account for the energy needed (manufacture and transport of materials, etc.) to build the structure or are those numbers left to some other entity to deal with?


How much water will it consume?


So many dumb things here. And yes the ROI and EROI need to be better.

First the PV needs to be above the Campus shading it, not using land just for it.

At least 50% of solar should be CSP giving power and heat, hot water..

Instead of wasting water evaporating it just cool it at night along with the building and then use it to keep cool in the day. Water is too costly in a desert to waste.

The wind turbine shown is a joke putting out little power/$ vs a normal 3blade one which costs less and puts out 3x's as much power/ sq' of rotor area and likely 5x's the ROI + EROI..

Next at least 50% of plastic waste can be turned back into diesel, Gasoline, NG just by distilling it.

Anyone building any size building should produce extra power instead of using external power. And this goes for homes too but it should be closely checked as many RE are scams like the wind turbine shown.


BLLLECHHH! The negativity in some comments here is so imbecilic. Obviously some of you have a big stake in blocking innovation. You're actually espousing that the only way green energy can meet your lofty standards is if it provides immediate full gratification and requires no societal investment.

Self-serving. Transparent. Cynical. Antisocial. Ridiculous.

Thank you gizmag for being a consistent source of information about ongoing and proposed implementation of technologies such as these. Despite some of your readers' agendas.

Fritz Menzel

It has been proven over and over again that green energy is more expensive to produce.It is the right research but lets be honest, the survival of green energy is currently heavily dependent on government aid, grants, and tax incentives to prop it up.

Everything I know about it (which I admit, isn't that much but I am a realist) tells me that "valuable revenue stream for the college." is a completely unobtainable goal.

I have a strong suspicion they are mostly hoping the government officials tasked with signing their grant money don't agree with me. They are only doing this because success or fail they are positioned in the middle of a bazilion dollar project if it gets approved.

I would be far more supportive if they were just up front about it and said "hey, we know a 100% green energy campus will cost a few extra $$ but students will learn, work with, and develop many important new technologies".

I think a project like this /could/ be useful in part because while people spend a lot of effort on things like panel and windmill costs and efficiency very little research seems to go into the systems that monitor and connect these platforms.


Maybe they should use http://www.gizmag.com/v3solar-spin-cell/24352/ and the vengerwind.com vertical axis windmill

Aaron Baker

re; Fritz Menzel

There is no innovation here just a lot of low cost effective electrical generation and consumption of water in a desert.

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