To create a true net-zero building, one that literally generates as much or more energy than it consumes, is no easy task. Still, it’s a task that makes good business sense. After all, buildings consume a huge amount of energy, which cuts into profit margins. This simple equation finally hit home with Hines, the international real estate firm, and equity partner J.P. Morgan Asset Management. The two are partnering to build a new 13-story, 415,000-square-foot building at La Jolla Commons in San Diego that will become the nation’s largest carbon-neutral office building to date.

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In order to achieve this rare feat, the building will utilize combination of high-performance building design, directed biogas and on-site fuel cells that annually will generate more electricity than tenants will use. The fuel cells, made by Bloom Energy, will generate approximately 5.0 million KWh of electricity annually, which is roughly equivalent to the electricity required to power 1,000 San Diego homes. Methane needed to power the fuel cells will be acquired from carbon-neutral sources, such as landfills and wastewater plants, and placed into the national natural gas pipeline system. The building’s exterior is predominately a glass curtainwall system incorporating highly efficient, insulated, double-paned glass with a clear, low-emissive coating.

Hines views its newest building, which will also contain a highly efficient under-floor air system, as a sort of ongoing R&D project. “Our net-zero project at La Jolla Commons gives us a great foundation for furthering the use of carbon-neutral technologies and fuels,” said Gary Holtzer, Hines’ global sustainability officer. “Our next step is to adapt what we have learned and apply it to an existing urban property in a less temperate environment.”

Construction on the carbon neutral building began in April 2012 and completion is scheduled for mid-2014.

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