The South Korean National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER) has some new state-of-the-art digs that they say are headquartered in the first zero carbon office building in the world. While they are not the only folks to make this ambitious claim, the building is a textbook case of integrating passive and active technologies to make a high performance work environment. Solar electric panels wrap the southern facade and roof, while solar thermal panels integrate with a ground source heat pump, adding green BTUs to the super insulated interior.
The claim of net zero carbon may be a bit premature as the focus is on net zero energy and not the embodied energy of the construction materials. The 2,500 square foot building was built for $8 million or nearly $300 a square foot but the Korean Government will definitely get what they paid for. The building will have no ongoing energy related costs saving around $100,000 dollars a year and will eliminate 100 tons of atmospheric co2 per year.
The trick is the incorporation of 66 energy saving and energy producing technologies. The triple pane windows for instance cut out heat gain but provide natural light. Light sensors automatically shut off LED lights when the sun shines and internal CO2 sensors will open the windows when fresh air is needed. The windows have built in shades which can automatically open or close to allow just the right amount of light in while sharply reducing heat gain. Along with a super insulated shell, doors and a host of other features the efforts result in a 40% reduction in energy consumption.
On the energy production side of the equation the solar thermal panels jutting out from the roof provides hot water and supplement the ground source heat pump. Solar electric panels cover the south wall, letting sun come in between the cells in some rooms. The roof is also covered with panels which produce a net-zero energy office building that will inspire many more in South Korea, which is looking to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2020.
Photographs © Truth Leem, Reuters