Case Study: Zero Energy

Lubber Run Community Center

Arlington CountyArlington, Virginia

A Community Center Designed for Tomorrow's Energy Landscape

The Lubber Run Community Center was designed for tomorrow’s energy landscape. Intended to serve as a cornerstone for the community, the 53,165 square foot building features meeting spaces, offices, classrooms, exercise areas, and a gymnasium that are open to the public. An expansive green roof over the attached parking garage includes playgrounds, as well as basketball and tennis courts. As the first project in Arlington County, Virginia to use a zero energy design, the building demonstrates how to be a good steward for the community, the earth, and the local utility grid.

The Challenges

  • Design an all-electric, zero energy building
  • Reduce operational carbon through sustainable design
  • Preserve outdoor park space with expanded outdoor facilities
  • Incorporate design strategies to improve indoor air quality
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As the HVAC, electrical, and plumbing engineer, CMTA was an integral part of this project...They consistently offered creative design solutions to achieve a building that uses less energy, requires less maintenance, provides healthier air, and increases occupant productivity. Created with Sketch.

Michael Manos, PE, LEED AP

Facilities Project Specialist, Arlington County

The Solutions

Lubber Run leverages several strategies to reduce energy consumption and electrical demand. These strategies include a geothermal wellfield with distributed heat pumps, a dedicated outside air system (DOAS) with energy recovery and demand control ventilation, high-performance LED lighting, IT load reductions, and an improved thermal envelope. The building was designed to achieve an EUI of 23 or less and has a 350kW roof-mounted photovoltaic array through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

To make sustainability greatness a reality for Lubber Run, CMTA studied all building envelope features, including walls, windows, and systems. The project included a whole-building blower door pressure test to validate construction tightness, as well as thermal scanning and imaging. The goal was to have a well-insulated building that exceeds code minimum requirements and is also air- and water-tight. Software such as eQuest was utilized to optimize the building envelope. Enhanced roof insulation thickness and wall insulation systems were utilized, as well. Glazing sections were optimized to balance energy consumption with daylighting, and overhang structures enhance shading.

Not only is the building incredibly energy efficient, but the net zero energy design also reduces the facility’s carbon footprint for the life of the building. Compared to an ASHRAE baseline building, Lubber Run eliminates 223 Metric Tons of CO2 emissions each year—and that’s without considering renewable energy. Additional environmental benefits include the elimination of combustibles and the use of battery storage instead of a gas generator. Stormwater retention was also improved on-site with bioretention basins, which lessened the burden of a storm on the community’s overall infrastructure.

Battery Storage and Microgrid

Lubber Run Community Center is 100% electric, and—to avoid on-site combustion, altogether—it features a solar-ready microgrid capability for building back up. The cost of a generator, natural gas utility service, transfer switches, and dedicated emergency power distribution equipment was reallocated toward a 100kW/100kWh li-ion battery storage system. Using the battery system for grid services through the electric utility and a local aggregate services provider offsets the small remaining cost premium. This allows for increased adoption of regional renewable energy resources, while also permitting the backup equipment to be used by other buildings the other 99% of the time when the building is not experiencing an outage.

In addition to backup and grid services, the battery system is programmed for co-optimizing price and carbon emissions factors. In the future, it will be primarily charged with excess solar energy and discharged during more energy intense times. Islanding controls were designed so that the community center can operate off-grid indefinitely during most times of the year.

The Results

Lubber Run Community Center represents a new approach to sustainable design for Arlington County Parks and Recreation. The building’s solar microgrid enhances resilience and reduces additional operational emissions. Balancing community needs with environmental and energy goals, Lubber Run is an example of how data-driven design can turn goals into reality.

CMTA was proud to be a part of creating Arlington County’s first zero energy project. The Community Center will benefit both community members and the environment for years to come.

Lubber Run Energy Use