Laboratory Design Newsletter 2012 Selected Abstract


NetZero4 EcoScience Park/City Prototype:
Net Zero Energy, Water, Food, Waste, and Biofuels

Bruce Haxton
Rick Cantwell
Tom Kubala
John Andary
Fred Meade
Michael Perciali
Bry Sarte
Tamra Fakhoorian
Alan Lawson


This 1,100 acre science park (totaling 12,000 acres with the food production facilities included) represents a "lifestyle science park" approach. The lifestyle park approach means that the facility is a "live, work, play, and educate" complex. The concept was to integrate a sustainable approach; a LEED© project approach; a net zero energy, water, food, waste, and biofuels approach; a closed loop design approach; and a regenerative design approach all together. The result of the integration is a high-quality, low-energy, self-sustaining community that has all of the functions it needs to support itself.

The initial investigation centers around collecting and analyzing the site and building data, so as to rationally approach the design process as a "closed-loop design" that is by its nature self-sustaining. Once the annual water, nutrient, and energy balance is analyzed, the process begins to design the site and buildings to be self-sustaining. For a large master plan, the balancing of functions, adjacencies, and spatial concepts is very important. Vehicular, pedestrian, and service functions are analyzed to reduce interference.

In this scheme, the "heart" of the complex is the magnet university and village around the central water feature. The buildings are all oriented to maximum daylighting and energy conservation. The student housing, university buildings, offices, commercial, K-12 school, hotel/conference center, cafes, restaurants, and specialty shops are located at the center of the pedestrian village. The university students are meant to bring vitality to the village. The promenade around the central water feature connects the pedestrian network, which also radiates from the village along the waterways.

The housing for the non-university residents is a short walk from the village center. The walk is along a tree-lined waterway that serves as a "water catchment" area for the rain water that falls on the hard surface areas. The water elements are also used as heat sinks for all of the buildings to help with cooling and heating via high-efficiency heat pump technology. Housing-related recreation is located at the center of the housing clusters to foster a sense of community and to provide walking access for after-school recreation.

Other recreational activities at the village center include swimming, sailing, boating, and sunbathing at the central water feature. An additional recreation feature (an 18-hole golf course) is also used as a buffering element between the village and the research laboratories. Walking paths around the entire complex are also designed into the pedestrian circulation system. The walkways are adjacent to the water features and radiate out from the village center. There is also concentric pedestrian circulation for easy access to all parts of the complex.

On the outer edge of the golf course are the technology laboratory incubators and accelerators. These features are placed midway between the university and the commercial research sites for easy access to both students and instructors.

The waste for the university/village is processed in the waste to algae to biofuels system outside the science park's outer loop road, halfway to the farm road network. The system consists of 40 acres of algae ponds and 10 acres of process equipment for each quadrant. Waste to algae to biofuels is a unique process that makes cellulose into sugar and then into biofuels. The remaining potable water and cellulose are both recycled; the water goes into a wetland and open pond system for crop irrigation, while the used cellulose is used as non-petroleum-based fertilizer for crops. The cropland is anticipated to be organic farming using no pesticides, herbicides, or petroleum-based fertilizer.

The entire development is to be a magnet university to stimulate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); employment; training; and education within a specific region. The entire development is to be net zero energy, water, food, waste, and biofuels. The biofuels would be used in diesel tractors to complete the farm work. The water would be used and recycled into the aquifer. The waste is used to produce the biofuels, fertilizer, and water.

Photo 1

Birdseye Perspective of Housing (foreground) and Village Center / Magnet University campus surrounding the lake.

Photo 2

Net Zero Energy Lifestyle Science Park

Photo 3

Farms and Waste/Algae/Biofuels