When United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt announced a net-zero energy mandate, she challenged the project team to make energy performance the primary metric in every design decision.
The result is called Unisphere, the largest commercial net-zero building in the world, which generates more renewable energy than it consumes in a year since its opening in 2018.
It has a large light sculpture that is fed real-time data from the building’s automation system. The animation of the lights changes based on the energy status of the building.
The building was designed to automatically ventilate naturally, which is part of its energy efficient strategy. When conditions allow, windows open automatically to allow for fresh air to enter the building. The feature helps increase air changes, which helps provide a healthy interior environment. Windows also automatically darken in the heat of the day.
There are nearly 3,000 solar panels on the exterior of the building. The building is heated and cooled by water pulled from 52 geo-exchange wells drilled down to 500 feet.
There are more than 11,000 devices and six different systems that are connected through Unisphere’s brain.
Located along U.S. Route 29 at one of the primary routes of entry into Washington, the building is intended to be a landmark. It represents an important gateway marker into the Washington metro area. It features 135,000 square feet of space.
Companies that partnered in the project include architect and engineer Ewing Cole, general contractor Whiting Turner, owner’s representative Stranix and Associates and experimental designer Hush Studios.