The Architecture at Zero competition, now in its third year, was conceived as a response to the zero net energy targets set out by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) in the 2008 report, California’s Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. In this report, the CPUC set out four “Big Bold Energy Efficiency Strategies” for California that include the goals that all new residential construction in California be ZNE by 2020 and that all new commercial construction be ZNE by 2030.

Architecture at Zero 2013 is sponsored by the PG&E Zero Net Energy Pilot Program, an exploratory research and technical advisory program that is dedicated to furthering the knowledge-building and practice of ZNE building in California.

Presented by Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) and the American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter (AIASF), in partnership with Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), Architecture at Zero 2013 seeks creative and feasible approaches to ZNE building. By encouraging innovative design solutions to site-specific design challenges, the competition aims to broaden thinking about the technical and aesthetic possibilities of zero net energy projects. Further, it seeks to raise the profile of ZNE among built-environment professionals, students, and the general public in California and beyond.

This competition is open to students, architects, engineers and designers anywhere in the world.

Awards and Prizes
$25,000 in total prize money will be awarded. There will be at least two awards given, one for a student entry and one for a professional entry. Final decisions and prize money distribution will be made solely by the jury.

All submissions must be received by AIA San Francisco by October 1, 2013 at 1:00 PM PST.
AIA San Francisco uses an electronic registration process. If you are submitting multiple projects, you will need to register each project separately. See Submission Requirements.

Terms and Conditions
Download the Terms and Conditions here:

Exhibition and Award Announcement
Winners will be announced at a press conference on November 8, 2013 at AIA San Francisco.

All entries will be displayed at the AIA San Francisco gallery, 130 Sutter Street, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA from November 12-December 20, 2013.  Note that the gallery will be closed November 27-29, 2012.

It is expected that all entries will be part of an exhibition that will travel to multiple locations, throughout the state of California, during 2013. The exhibition schedule will be announced to participants.

Policies Regarding Submissions:
All submissions shall become the property of PG&E, which reserves the right to exhibit and reproduce any of the submissions.  By submitting a project, the entrant agrees to all Terms + Conditions outlined in the Terms + Conditions document. In any public use of the submissions, credit will be given to the design team.

All submissions are final.

All questions about the competition will be recorded on the website with responses from the competition organizers.  See FAQs.

Criteria for Judging
Entries are judged on a presentation board highlighting the project, and a Technical Addendum that provides a narration for energy performance documentation.  A separate review board will convene to jury the Technical Addendum, which will result in a Technical Score provided to the Design Review Jury in early November.  The final review held by the Design Review Jury will determine the winners from all submissions.  The Technical Score and Technical Addendum are not the sole criterion on which entries will be judged, but act as a complement to a overall project design.

Entries are weighed individually, not in competition with others. Jury decisions will be based solely on the materials submitted. Criteria include quality of design, resolution of the program or idea, innovation, thoughtfulness, and technique.

Competition Planning Team
Peter Turnbull – Principal, Zero Net Energy Pilot Program, PG&E
Margie O’Driscoll – Executive Director, AIA San Francisco
Stacy Williams – Deputy Director, AIA San Francisco
Loren Wearsch – Program Coordinator, Awards + Competitions, AIA San Francisco
Noelle Cole – Principal, Resource Refocus LLC (consultant to PG&E ZNE Pilot Program)
Anna LaRue – Principal, Resource Refocus LLC (consultant to PG&E ZNE Pilot Program)
Bill Burke – Architectural Program Coordinator, PG&E Pacific Energy Center
Sam Jensen Augustine – Architectural Program Coordinator, PG&E Pacific Energy Center

Special Thanks
Don Falk – Executive Director, TNDC
Katie Lamont – Director of Housing Development, TNDC
Mara Blitzer – Project Manager, TNDC
Katie Key – Manager, External Communications, PG&E
Jason King – External Communications Representative, PG&E
Jonathan Manzo – Consultant, Local Government Relations, PG&E
Julie Ahner – Senior Business Segment Manager, PG&E

Photo Credits

Photos taken by the competition planning team.


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This program is funded by California utility customers and administered by PG&E under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.