By Peter B. Cushman
According to the Danish design firm of Bjarke Ingels Group, nobody!
Per a recent story from ArchDaily, the Bjarke Ingels Group is underway with designs for a zero energy resort and entertainment city on Zira Island, which is located within the bay of Baku, Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan you say? Yep, I didn’t know where it was either but that is beside the point.
The point is that this isn’t the world’s first zero energy master planned destination nor will it be the last. The question, however, is why hasn’t the United States been able to deliver the same? Sure, the economy is in a complete meltdown and there is a lack of new projects underway, but surely with the talent pool in America (architects, engineers, developers, etc.) and the recent commitment to going “green” one should assume that we are on our way to delivering the same zero energy opportunities, right?
Similar master planned projects to Zira Island have already begun in Dongtan (China) and Masdar (Abu Dhabi) but here in America, all that I can find is a plethora of LEED certified buildings and a lot of “commitment” to the future. All is not lost, however according to Z-Home. z-Home is believed to be the first production, multifamily, fully zero net energy community in the United States. Located in Issaquah, WA, zHome includes a hyper insulated shell, ground source heat pump for heating and hot water, and photovoltaic panels. This project is scheduled for completion at the end of 2009 and most interestingly appears to be aimed at the general consumer not simply the upper class wishing to live “green”. Although zHome is not a mega master planned five-star destination like Zira Island but it does bode well for future zero energy communities around the country.
American’s may not have an abundance of high priced zero energy destinations to point today doesn’t mean we aren’t heading the right direction. In fact, I am elated at the number of projects underway nationally that are leading us closer to delivering a multitude of zero energy communities. For instance, Xcel Energy’s $100 million development of a “smart” electrical in Boulder, Colorado and Austin Energy’s proposal to construct the largest solar array in the United States in eastern Travis County, Texas represent just two of the major energy initiatives underway that will be valuable in increasing our ability to tap into the best energy source possible – mother nature.
Coupled with the emergence of new and innovative technologies such as Serious Materials, Integrity Block and iCrete, I think we will soon be able to say “We Can Live Off Mother Nature” – in English, not just in Azeri!
By the way, Azerbaijan is in Southwestern Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Russia.