Sacramento Municipal Utility District

The Sacramento Municipal Utility wanted to prove that net zero energy could be achieved economically. For their new corporate yard facility, SMUD required bidders to incorporate on site renewables sufficient to achieve net zero energy. This drove designers of the turnkey fixed price project to balance the capital costs of energy efficient architecture against the most cost efficient solar PV solutions of the day. The paradigm shift in design tension resulted in a creative combination of technologies and architectural design yielding the second largest net zero facility in North America.

“In optimizing the performance of the systems, our team minimized the need for large energy pulls from the grid, allowing for less photovoltaic panels throughout the campus.”


“The building features a state-of-the-art energy efficiency design and systems as well as renewable power generation sources that enables the building to generate as much power as it uses.”

In order to determine the best combination of solutions, the design team led by energy engineer Jim Bererton, modeled the impact of every architectural design and mechanical system component in a holistic modeling platform using TRNSYS. The specialized transient thermal analysis tool realized a unique mechanical approach that harnessed energy from a horizontal geo-exchange field, thermal storage tanks, cooling towers and heat recovery chillers. It also proved the benefits of radiant slab cooling, specialized architectural external shading, and detailed analysis of daylight harvesting. The 1.2 MW single axis tracking solar array produces 28% more electricity annualy than a fixed array of equal capacity and produces all the energy the site needs to be net zero. The result is one of the most comfortable and energy efficient campuses in the world consuming 60% less energy than conventional designs. One of the first LEED Platinum NC rated campuses, the project blazes the trail for energy efficient design. Having won multiple awards for sustainable design, this complex proves that we can have a minimal carbon footprint and still be comfortable and productive. 


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