Zero Energy Certified


vital stats

Certification StatusZero Energy Certified
LocationBuckeye, AZ, USA
Gross Building Area8,675 SF
Start of OccupancyAugust 2018
Owner OccupiedYes
Occupancy TypeEducational Building
Number of Occupants300

Photo Courtesy of West-MEC SW Campus Building X

project team

OwnerWestern Maricopa Education Center
Project ManagerDLR Group
ArchitectDLR Group
ContractorMcCarthy Building Companies
MEP EngineerDLR Group
Lighting DesignDLR Group
CivilBowman Consulting (fka Atherton Engineering)
LandscapeDLR Group
StructuralDLR Group
Fire ProtectionRolf Jensen & Associates
Cost EstimatorRider Levett Bucknall

Photo Courtesy of West-MEC SW Campus Building X

building systems information

Wall R valueR15
Wall DescriptionConcrete Masonry Unit with continuous insulation + Steel stud with cavity and continuous insulation
Roof R valueR40
WindowsThermally broken Aluminum Storefront with low-e coated insulated glazing units
Air infiltration rate and sealing protocol0.04 cfm/sf. Fluid applied air barrier system over masonry walls; under slab vapor retarder; self adhering membrane around openings; spunbonded polyolefin non-woven, non-perforated weather barriers over exterior sheathing on steel stud framing walls

mechanical systems

Rooftop packaged direct expansion R-410A heat pump units with all exhaust through energy recovery.


Overhead displacement ventilation systems with demand control ventilation. Exhaust air is through an energy recovery system.


PV Array Size79 kW
PV Output per capacity nameplate60,000 W
Panel Quantity234
PV Type and BrandCanadian Solar KUMAZ CS3U-350, 72 Cell 340 W panels at 17.64% Max Eff.’ 7.38 Degree Tilt
PV Inverter Quantity1
PV LocationRoof deck

Photo Courtesy of West-MEC SW Campus Building X


Actual energy use during performance period97,446 kWh
Actual energy produced during performance period104,771 kWh
Net Energy Use-7,325 kWh
EUI38.33 kBTU/sf/yr


West-MEC as a public school district has a vision of reducing the operating costs of their facilities through well-planned, resource-efficient, and easily maintainable and durable buildings. West-MEC’s two other campuses that DLR Group designed operate at a near net-zero energy capacity below 20 kBtu/SF/yr.

The 2016 West-MEC Southwest Campus began, a first-of-its-kind innovative partnership between a public utility, APS Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station; a community college, Estrella Mountain Community College, and West-MEC. The primary goal of this triumvirate of industry, higher education, and secondary education was to encourage and provide a pathway into the nuclear power industry and augment an aging workforce. What is truly unique is that high school students, college students, and adults will be able to earn college credit and experience hand’s-on learning from faculty who are also senior operation staff with the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.

This integrated approach to learning simply did not exist in the United States – until now.

This innovative opportunity to blend the resources of three distinctly different organizations necessitated a new campus to meet industry demand for workforce training. The highly structured learning approach utilizes four basic tenants; classroom instruction, hand’s on learning, career-based experience, and leadership development directly shaped the campus plan. Arizona Public Service, Estrella Mountain Community College, and West-MEC will share curriculum development, instruction responsibilities, and campus facilities.

Photo Courtesy of West-MEC SW Campus Building X

design process

The goal of the campus is student success and graduating engaged and prosperous citizens to enrich their respective West Valley communities. The ‘National Energy Grid’ is the inspiration for the campus physical plan and is symbolic of a didactic educational curriculum; the photovoltaic canopy becomes a tool to teach students about renewable energy systems.

A truly unique feature of the Southwest Energy Partners Campus is the incorporation of a fully functioning industry flow loop as an integral part of the educational experience. The flow loop, which was provided by and will be maintained by industry partners, is a key component of energy production infrastructure.

The iconic architectural character of the photovoltaic canopy reflects the school district’s brand and vision to express sustainable energy strategies to the public; this functional design element organizes and unifies the campus master plan, and provides a framework for future phases of construction. The high-bay canopy is composed of solar panels that provide filtered shade for outdoor learning. Flexible high-bay learning labs and teaching spaces within the buildings will be shared by all three organizations and provide a collaborative learning environment for experimentation and exploration.

energy systems narrative

To achieve the overall district’s vision as well as the vision for this particular campus the design team followed these basic design principles.

  • Use simple, cost effective and durable materials that support the curriculum.
  • Provide comfortable daylight in all teaching spaces.
  • Use simple, efficient and easy to maintain mechanical and electrical systems.
  • Integrate energy features into architectural design aesthetics.
  • Enhance the outdoor experience as student transition between classes.
  • Provide opportunities for collaboration between various pathways.


Building X is an assembly space for not only the SW Campus of West-MEC but also for the entire school district as none of their other campuses have such a flexible meeting space. Designed for 400 people, the facility is constantly used for the entire day and most often through the weekends to accommodate school district needs but also other community organizations. This building was originally planned for 8 hours of use, but later planned for almost 16 hours of use every day.

Photo Courtesy of West-MEC SW Campus Building X

lessons learned

Sub-metering was more expensive when the team started the project in 2014 and did not make the overall energy plan because of budget constraints. If they redo this campus again, the team will execute our initial vision of sub-metering major end uses at each building.

The programs for each phase and building were very fluid through the course of planning as it was dependent on partnerships with other institutions. This caused a lot of challenges in not being able to predict the process energy load – which is significant in this campus because of the career and technical education (CTE) programs.

A sub-metered building design would have provided invaluable data on CTE plug/process load consumption.

Also, ideally, the team would have installed a medium voltage loop around the campus to allow for solar systems in one building to contribute to the energy needs in a different building increasing the resiliency of the campus.