CEC Next EPIC Challenge

Katie Ackerly, AIA
June 2023
Aerial rendering of The Villages at 995 East Santa Clara in East Santa Clara, Ca.

Rendering of the proposed CEC Next Epic Challenge project, The Villages at 995 East Santa Clara.

Image Credit
David Baker Architects

DBA is proud to be on one of 12 teams in California exploring a zero-carbon solution for new construction affordable housing under a new design challenge funded by the California Energy Commission. Along with a team including First Community Housing, Association for Energy Affordability, RMI, Center for the Built Environment, Taylor Engineering, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Roberts Obayashi construction and KPFF Structural Engineers, our research seeks to determine a practical, scalable approach to zero-carbon housing. To meet the challenge set forth by the Energy Commission, the building needs to deploy on-site renewables and storage sufficient to meet loads during the peak 4-9 pm period, to island from the grid during a power outage, and to perform critical demand response.  

The proposed project, The Villages at 995 East Santa Clara is a 6-story, 71,000 ft² building on a 0.42-acre site in San Jose’s Roosevelt Park neighborhood, a disadvantaged community with strong access to open space, transit, and amenities. Our zero-emissions approach is to integrate technologies and approaches with demonstrated potential, and optimize the design around financial, resilience, health and other benefits of decarbonization that accrue first to the residents and communities served by the project. 

To meet the challenge, our solution will need to first maximize solar PV and prioritize load reduction strategies optimized for thermal storage, and then demonstrate the breakthrough potential of a whole-building smart microgrid control and management system. The study then goes a step further to explore the structural and envelope strategies that both streamline construction and reduce emissions for a mid-rise building. An outcome of the design phase will be to evaluate how these complex, interdependent systems can work together, and, importantly, to document the most cost-effective and beneficial pathway to an emissions-free dense urban housing project in a way that is easy for developers and industry peers to understand.