The Future of Real Estate: To Net Zero and Beyond

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The Future of Real Estate: To Net Zero and Beyond

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” —Albert Einstein

Taking a hint from the energy pioneer, stok helped create a center of knowledge for the electrical industry. The Net Zero Plus (NZP) Electrical Training Institute (ETI) provides electrical workers with an unmatched hands-on, demonstrative learning experience. Annually immersing over 6,000 electrical apprentices, journeymen, and contractors in a transformational curriculum around advanced technologies featured in this state-of-the-art living laboratory, the NZP ETI prepares its occupants for challenging and rewarding careers in a clean energy future.

The facility, located in Los Angeles County, is a certified Net Zero Energy Building by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), achieved LEED Gold certification through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and is a verified net zero building by the New Buildings Institute.

Driven by the IBEW Local 11 and the Los Angeles Chapter of NECA’s pioneering Net Zero Plus Initiative, stok partnered with PDE Total Energy Solutions, Western Allied, O’Bryant Electric, and SimonGlover Architects to bring the ambitious project to life.

Achieving net zero

The largest Net Zero Energy (NZE) retrofit in the country, the NZP ETI showcases the full gamut of sustainable design features, excelling in energy efficiency, onsite renewables production, advanced battery storage, and consequent resiliency.

The facility achieved NZE via an advanced, utility-scale microgrid; a 500kW rooftop and parking structure PV solar array, producing over 920,000 kWh annually; 144,000 square feet of LED lighting; significant sub-metering to help understand energy use throughout the entire building; innovative battery storage; dashboards to display real-time data on the building’s energy performance, including analytics on energy generation, consumption, and storage; a High Solar Reflective Index (SRI) roof; and 12 electric vehicle charging stations.


stok began with an ASHRAE Level II energy audit to develop a baseline energy model, allowing the team to determine a strategic combination of energy efficiency measures to reduce the facility’s energy use intensity (EUI). By focusing on HVAC, plug loads, service hot water, and lighting, stok reduced the building’s energy consumption to 50% of what it used prior to the renovation, decreasing the EUI from 11 to -1.3 with the addition of a 500kW onsite PV system.

The facility utilizes Big Ass Fans to circulate air, bringing down the temperature by ventilating and cooling the space as efficiently as possible without mechanical systems. stok also resurfaced the roof, adding new R-value in the form of a cool roof with a higher SRI. To cool the building and further reduce solar heat gain, the project team installed electrochromic glazing on the east and south facades as well as a large shading wall on the east side.

Moving beyond energy efficiency to onsite electricity production, the facility’s PV system, made of monocrystalline silicon panels, converts sunlight into DC electricity onsite. The array is expected to produce roughly 1.25 times what the facility is expected to consume, propelling the project to Net Zero Plus. We’ve discovered on our projects that having clean solar panels does impact the performance of onsite electricity generation. Cleaning your PV system regularly after construction can improve its performance by 5-10%. It’s a simple step to keep panels performing optimally, which is crucial for accurate energy modeling and performance design.

Past impressive energy efficiency and onsite renewables, the NZP ETI utilizes battery storage to achieve resiliency. The facility is capable of storing energy onsite through an advanced lithium-ion battery storage system, using it during on-peak times when energy is in high demand and more expensive. In the instance of a natural disaster or power outage, the training center can sustain itself for a full 72 hours off-grid, as well as support Los Angeles County during times of peak demand by feeding electricity back into the grid.

Leading a movement

The NZP ETI helps lead a growing global movement in support of the rapid adoption of NZE buildings. Last year, the World Green Building Council launched a project to ensure all buildings are net zero by 2050, which recently gained official support from 3 major businesses, including one of our valued partners. Closer to home, California mandated that new commercial buildings be Net Zero Energy by 2030, and the neighboring city of Santa Monica became the first city in the world to require all new single-family construction to meet NZE standards.

This wasn’t stok’s first journey into NZE either. We strongly believe in an NZE future, and have begun to make an impact through our work on the NZP ETI, Zero Net Energy Center and DPR’s San Francisco office, which is the city’s first commercial NZE building.

Learn more

The NZP ETI made headlines with its unmatched combination of energy efficient, renewable, and battery storage systems, prompting a full PBS documentary on the project and the net zero movement, along with an appearance by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at the ribbon-cutting in Los Angeles. This month, we’re embarking on an NZE Roadshow in conjunction with the ILFI to educate everyone about the sustainable design features that allowed this project to achieve NZE and beyond, so your project can too.

We’re screening a portion of the documentary, followed by a Q&A and panel discussion, featuring experts from the documentary as well as local energy efficient design specialists. Spanning multiple industries from developers, to members of the California Energy Commission, to experts from the private sector, our panelists seek to present a dynamic and interdisciplinary discussion around NZE.

Join us at one of our events throughout California to learn more. Register here: Sacramento, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego

This post was written by Warren Neilson. Specializing in real estate strategy for stok, Warren helps clients realize sustainability goals throughout their entire real estate portfolio, allowing for maximum impact through the sustainable built environment.