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Architecture at Zero

Prizes to USA, Canada, and International Students and
Professionals for Designing an Energy Efficient Building

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and American Institute of Architects, California Council (AIACC)

Conf. Date:


Deadline Date:

01/10/18 1:00 PM PST Receipt for registrations; the deadline for receipt of proposals is 01/30/18 1:00 PM PST


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Prizes to USA, Canada, and International architects, urban planners, engineers, landscape architects, designers, and students for successfully designing an energy efficient educational and visitor center located in Tiburon, California. The purpose of this competition is to demonstrate and promote net-zero energy building projects.

The Architecture at Zero competition challenge is to create a zero net energy bayside community education and visitor’s center, in support of the mission of the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies (RTC). This facility is San Francisco State University’s center for estuary and ocean science located on 53 acres of bayside property in Tiburon, California.

The competition has two components. First, entrants will create an overall site plan to accommodate the program. Entrants are encouraged to highlight any energy efficiency strategies or systems shown. Second, entrants will design two buildings in detail, to indicate zero net energy (ZNE) performance. In order to demonstrate the building design and its performance, entrants will provide required documentation and may also include supplementary documentation.

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.

The Challenge:

To complement a planned restoration of a pier and wharf with public access on the Tiburon property, RTC seeks to create an adjacent bayside community educational and visitor’s center. This will be a place where the general public, school groups and teachers can visit and learn about the ecology, biology, restoration and oceanography of the San Francisco Estuary and other nearby coastal ecosystems, as well as the environmental and naval history of the property itself.

The bayside center will include two buildings:

1) An interactive exhibit space and visitors center with adjacent classrooms for visiting school groups or teachers (part of the exhibit area will include aquaria and touch tanks for marine organisms); and an adjacent outdoor picnic/event space to serve visitors, resident faculty, staff and students, conference center users and other special events;

2) A building to support science-on-the-bay nature education kayak and small boat based tours for school groups, university students and other visitors. These are envisioned as self- supporting non- profit units or public-private partnership ventures that would be integrated with the science education, research and public service missions of RTC and San Francisco State University.

The challenge will be to develop an energy plan for this two building cluster and associated uses in an approximately 3.5 acre area of the Tiburon property adjacent to a planned restoration of a large wharf and pier and adjacent shoreline to support a variety of aquatic educational programs and operations.

Important Information about the Site:

The 53-acre property sits on the shore of San Francisco Bay on steep hillsides with extraordinary views of the Richmond Bridge, Bay Bridge and the East Bay. Originally developed by the US Navy, the area for the competition’s building cluster is adjacent to a large concrete tarmac and seawall.

Most of the existing buildings on the project site are slated for demolition due to their poor condition. However, one building may be conserved for its historic value (see map for details). For the purposes of the competition, design teams should plan on new construction, rather than renovation, to meet the design program.

A newly resurfaced and restored wharf and pier with a small harbor is planned in the location of the former one (pilings remain that can be resurfaced and incorporated). In addition, strong winds penetrate the site at times.

Important note: The site lies adjacent to the San Francisco Bay and thus will be impacted by Sea Level Rise. While estimates for the amount of inundation vary, teams should consider the possibility of 100-150 cm of sea level rise above mean sea level.

Interim Review for Students and Student Teams (for students only):

Affirming the commitment to students of architecture and engineering, PG&E is offering, at no charge, a technical review of student entries to the Architecture at Zero competition. Students and student teams are encouraged, but not required to take advantage of this opportunity.

This review will be performed by technical reviewers, NOT members of the final jury. Technical reviewers will include energy experts from PG&E, as well as some of California’s most knowledgeable architects and engineers. This “desk crit” will focus on energy consumption and production of the proposed design, as opposed to the architectural design. Reviewers will evaluate energy metrics, EUI’s, and estimates of renewable technologies and other topics. Sessions will be 30 minutes each.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 173777

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Additional Eligibility Criteria:

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

Full-time student entrants must provide a copy of their student ID.

Recent graduates must have been enrolled full-time during the 2016 or 2017 calendar years and must provide official documentation of their full-time student status during those years (diploma, student ID showing date, etc.).

Pre-proposal Conference:

Representatives from San Francisco State University and PG&E will lead a tour of the competition site on September 30, 2017 at 10:00 AM.

The tour will take approximately 60 minutes.

This session will be filmed and questions and answers posted on the website for those unable to attend in person.

Pre-Application Information:

All registrations including students must be received by January 10, 2018 at 1:00 PM. All submissions must be received by January 30, 2018 at 1:00 PM PST.

The entry fee for architects, engineers and designers is $275. The entry fee for students and recent grads is $1.

To participate in the Interim Review, students must register online for a specific time slot. Available dates and times will be posted online September 1, 2017. Reviews will be held in November, 2017. Important note: Confirmation of the appointment date/time will be sent to registrant. Students are responsible for uploading their submissions 7 days in advance. No reminders will be sent.

Reviews will be 30 minutes and conducted via video conferencing. Reviews will be provided orally and students are encouraged to keep notes of reviewer comments.



Registration and Application Information:

Terms and Conditions:

More information about Architecture at Zero may be found here:

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

To register for the Interim Review, review the available dates and times for the review and send up to 5 possible dates/times (from list) to: Include student/team name and phone number for video/phone conference.

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URL for Full Text (RFP):

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International country outside of the USA, Israel and Canada.