The Zero-Zero Hero

David Kaneda's San Jose office building will use zero electricity, produce zero carbon dioxide, and still be a comfortable workplace

5 min read

It may be a first: an office building with a net electricity use of zero or less, that burns no fossil fuels for heating and produces no greenhouse gas, and that makes the people working there at least as comfortable as those in conventionally heated and cooled buildings. The building, in San Jose, Calif., opens in October, and if all goes according to plan, it will raise the bar for designers of energy-efficient buildings worldwide. Though other so-called z-squared buildings exist, they are highway rest stops, nature centers, and event locations, not office structures with computers and printers and cubicles full of employees.

”We’ve hoisted the flag and said we’re the first,” says David Kaneda. ”No one yet has stepped forward to question that.” He owns the San Jose building, and his Santa Clara, Calif.�based firm, Integrated Design Associates (IDeAs), did the electrical and lighting design and will occupy the ground floor.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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