The Architecture at Zero competition, now in its fifth year, was conceived as a response to the zero net energy targets set out by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) in the 2008 report,
California’s Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. In this report, the CPUC set out four “Big Bold Energy Efficiency Strategies” for California that include the goals that all new residential construction in California be ZNE by 2020 and that all new commercial construction be ZNE by 2030.

Architecture at Zero 2015 is sponsored by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), as part of its program activities dedicated to furthering the knowledge building and practice of ZNE building in California.

Architecture at Zero seeks creative and feasible approaches to ZNE building. By encouraging innovative design solutions to site-specific design challenges, the competition aims to broaden thinking about the technical and aesthetic possibilities of zero net energy projects. Further, it seeks to raise the profile of ZNE among built-environment professionals, students, and the general public in California and beyond.

Site Inspection

Please join representatives from UCSF and PGE on Saturday, August 29th at 11am for an in-depth look at the competition site.

We will meet at 1560 3rd Street, outside the Hearst Tower, and proceed to the site. The T-line stops a few steps away (UCSF stop) and there is public parking nearby. UCSF Mission Bay Map.

For those who can't attend we will record all questions and answers and post in the FAQ section on the web-site.

Please RSVP to:


This competition is open to students, architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers and designers anywhere in the world.

Site Description

The competition site is part of the University of California, San Francisco’s Mission Bay Campus that will be developed into multifamily residential units over a ground floor of retail, community and support spaces.

The new construction project will include approximately 398,700 gsf (gross square feet) of housing and 19,500 gsf of support services, with a minimum of approximately 774 beds in 523 units. The complex would be comprised of five or fewer buildings as well as outdoor space or courtyard. For security reasons, preference is for one or two connected building. The complex could include a 18,000 gsf child care center with about 200 child care slots. If the child care center is developed, approximately 15,000 square feet of the courtyard would be dedicated as an outdoor play yard. If child care is not included, approximately 12 additional units could be added to the housing program. In addition, approximately 1,500 gsf could be developed for UCSF police.

Photo Credits
Photos courtesy of UCSF and the competition planning team except where noted.

Awards and Prizes

Up to $25,000 in total prize money will be awarded to winners to students and professionals.


Submission deadline is September 25 at 1:00 pm PST. Please note that the Architecture at Zero competition uses an electronic registration process. If you are submitting multiple projects, you will need to register each project separately. See Submission Requirements for more information.

Awards Announcement

Winners will be announced at a press conference at 10:00 am Friday, October 23, 2015 at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center, Robertson Auditorium at 1675 Owens St., San Francisco. The public and media are invited to this event. All entries will be displayed.

RSVP here:

Terms and Conditions

View the Terms and Conditions here

Exhibition and Award Announcement

Winners will be announced at a press conference in fall 2015.

Submissions Policies

All submissions shall become the property of PG&E, which reserves the right to exhibit and reproduce any of the submissions. By submitting a project, the entrant agrees to all Terms and Conditions outlined in the Architecture at Zero 2015 Terms and Conditions document. In any public use of the submissions, credit will be given to the design team. All submissions are final.


All questions about the competition will be recorded on the website with responses from the competition organizers. See the FAQs page for more information.

Criteria for Judging

Entries are judged on a presentation board highlighting the project, and a Technical Addendum that provides a narration for energy performance documentation. A separate review board will convene to jury the Technical Addendum, which will result in a Technical Score provided to the Design Review Jury in early October. The final review held by the Design Review Jury will determine the winners from all submissions. The Technical Score and Technical Addendum are not the sole criterion on which entries will be judged, but act as a complement to the overall project design.

Entries are weighed individually, not in competition with others. Jury decisions will be based solely on the materials submitted. Criteria include quality of design, resolution of the program or idea, innovation, thoughtfulness, and technique.


Competition Planning Team

Peter Turnbull, FAIA - Principal, Zero Net Energy Pilot Program, PG&E
Margie O’Driscoll - Senior Program Manager
Geraldine O’Brien - Principal
Anna LaRue - Principal, Resource Refocus LLC (consultant to PG&E)
Carrie Brown - Senior Technical Consultant, Resource Refocus LLC (consultant to PG&E)
Margaret Pigman - Associate Technical Consultant, Resource Refocus LLC (consultant to PG&E) Nicki Dennis Stephens, Hon. AIACC
Cam Pietralunga - Web/Graphics Designer - AIACC

Special Thanks

Kamala Subbarayan - Senior Educational Facilities Planner, UCSF
Leslie Santos - Director of Housing Services, UCSF
Todd McGregor - Assistant Director of Housing Services, UCSF
Don Rudy, AIA - Deputy Campus Architect and Associate Director of Capital Programs, UCSF; VP of Legislative Affairs, AIACC