University Of California At Davis: New Zero Net Energy Community

The University of California at Davis is usually on the cutting edge of sustainable technology, which is why its West Village is so cool. The West Village is the largest “net zero energy” community in the U.S., which means it consumes no more energy than it creates. The $300 million student and faculty mixed-use community was opened by UC Davis on October 15th and combines high-efficiency building features with on-site energy production to eliminate the need for any net energy from outside sources.

The new university community takes full advantage of the sunny California weather. Solar efficiency was top of mind when the West Village was designed so sloped roofs maximize solar efficiency and solar panels are on the roof of every structure, including the car park; the buildings are even oriented for southern exposure.

In fact, the solar panels produce more electricity than needed during the day and the excess is fed back into the power grid. During the evening,West Village pulls stored electricity from the grid resulting in net zero outside energy use.

Not enough of a soup-to-nuts power solution for you? Well, get this: electricity will also be generated by the village’s bio-digester. The device decomposes garbage and waste, which results in methane and hydrogen gases that can be burned for electricity.

Designers reduced the amount of electricity needed by engineering the facilities to use 50% less energy than comparable buildings. Thick exterior walls and a white “cool roof” provide extra protection from the heat.  Customized window awnings with moveable wooden slats allow residents to control the amount of sun and heat that enters rooms.  In the evening residents take advantage of cool breezes by opening over-sized windows and patio doors, reducing the need for air conditioning. All the buildings are equipped with Energy Star appliances.

In one of the cooler, modern twists inWestVillage, residents can use the Web to monitor energy use by individual room with smart phones. The devices, through the Web, can switch on or off plugged-in appliances, lights and other gadgets. The village is also outfitted with loads of other green features, including low-flow water fixtures, recycled content materials and low-VOC paints.

About 3,000 students and faculty live in 662 apartments; 332 single-family homes are also present in theWestVillageand everyone there will have direct access to 42,500 square feet of commercial space once it’s fully completed in 2013. For now, 800 students and faculty live in two residential halls and enjoy amenities like a gym, game rooms, a BBQ patio and several pools as can be seen here is this virtual tour (caution – you may find yourself signing up for classes after seeing the village):