On behalf of our larger team, I wanted to thank you for the hard work on structuring a wonderful competition that provided a great challenge but also a really enjoyable exploration – we really enjoyed the process and thinking about such an important site.
— Professional winner 2015


The Architecture at Zero 2016 competition challenge is to create a zero net energy student housing project at the San Francisco State University campus.

The competition has two components. First, entrants will create an overall site plan to accommodate 784 housing units, student services, dining center, childcare facility, and parking, detailed in the Challenge Program. Entrants are encouraged to highlight any energy efficiency strategies or systems shown, especially ones that apply to a district scale. Second, entrants will design one building, in detail, to indicate zero net energy (ZNE) performance. In order to demonstrate the building design and its performance, entrants will provide required documentation and may also include supplementary documentation.

Click here for the Challenge Program and Zero Net Energy Considerations (PDF).



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


Awards and Judging

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

Entries are judged on the presentation board highlighting the project and any supplementary documentation. A separate review panel will convene to jury the technical components, which will result in a Technical Evaluation provided to the Jury. The Jury will determine the winners from all submissions. The Technical Evaluation is not the sole criterion on which entries will be judged but acts as a complement to the overall project design evaluation.

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.



The registration deadline is Friday, September 30th at 6:00pm PST and the submission deadline is Friday, October 28th, 2016. Your full entry must be received by 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.

All submissions shall become the property of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (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 2016 Terms and Conditions document. In any public use of the submissions, credit will be given to the design team. All submissions are final.

Terms and Conditions


Meet with representatives from San Francisco State and PG&E for in-depth tour of the competition site on September 10th.  We will assemble at 9:45am at the Cesar Chavez Student Union at the center of the campus and the tour begins at 10am.  

Please RSVP to: info@architectureatzero.com For those not able to attend we will post a video of the tour.




Competition Planning Team

Peter Turnbull, Principal, Zero Net Energy Pilot Program, PG&E

Can Anbarlilar, Project Manager, Product Management – Zero Net Energy, PG&E

Margie O’Driscoll - Senior Program Manager

Geraldine O’Brien - Principal

Anna LaRue - Principal, 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


Thomas Lollini, FAIA, Senior Associate Vice President, Physical Planning & Development, SFSU

Jill Anthes, Executive Director of Community Planning and Design, SFSU

Photo Credits

Photos courtesy of SF State/Paul Asper, Jill Anthes, Nedal Saba and SF State and the competition planning team.