Flourish: Net-Positive Energy Housing

In 2014, SERA was honored for our entry in PG&E’s Architecture at Zero design competition. Tasked with creating net zero, mixed use apartments in Oakland, California, SERA staff developed an entirely energy-independent living community that produces more energy than it requires – making it net positive. Named Flourish, the apartments explore what’s possible today by seamlessly integrating current technology with smart building strategies.

At Flourish, occupants determine their own comfort level and energy use by interacting directly with the building – achieving thermal comfort equal to that of an air conditioned building. Manually-operated exterior shades can filter sunlight in summer and maximize solar gain in winter. And a single-loaded corridor allows fresh air to flow into exterior windows, through the units via interior transom windows and doors, and out again into central courtyards and exterior spaces.

By designing holistically, SERA integrates photovoltaics in a way that complements the architecture, rather than tacking it on as an afterthought. At Flourish, rooftop canopies over outdoor common spaces are made of transparent, bifacial photovoltaics that generate energy while still providing occupants with exposure to daylight. Thermal panels integrated into the roof also take advantage of the sun to preheat domestic water.

While standard buildings the size of Flourish have an average EUI (energy use intensity) of between 35 and 40, Flourish boasts a meager EUI of between 10 and 15. Thanks to robust energy creation and savings features, the building adds energy back to the grid each year.