Latshaw: The Future Is In Sunnyvale Communities Saratoga Sustainability & LEED

By Special to San Jose Spotlight, San Jose Spotlight

April 19, 2023

Do you want to visit Disneyland’s Tomorrowland without the expense and trouble of an airplane flight? Then visit Sunnyvale’s new City Hall.

I was privileged to be invited to the initial pre-opening ceremony. The expansive entrance patio is composed of interlocking tiles of multiple colors. A raised garden area is fenced in with a granite wall, which also serves as a bench. The building is a magnificent 120,000 square-foot, four-story windowed structure. I feel the entrance is every bit as impressive as the one at the Getty Museum. The new Sunnyvale logo is etched into the glass doors at the entrance. The rooftop solar panels can be seen from the patio. Much of the indoor heating comes from passive sunlight as the double pane windows have an internal shade that automatically opens and closes depending on temperature and available sunlight.

So why am I talking about architecture? Because the heating and cooling of water and air cause as much greenhouse gas emissions as all transportation—cars, trucks, buses and more. Designing buildings to be emission-free is essential. If a building also uses natural gas, then the combustion of that gas and the leakage of that gas in reaching the building should all be attributed as the greenhouse gas emissions from that building.

Sunnyvale City Hall is the first building in the country that is net-zero and Platinum Certified LEED, the highest rating. LEED ratings indicate greenhouse gas emissions associated with the construction of a building. Net-zero simply means the output from the building’s 1,600 solar panels will equal or exceed the electricity provided by an external source when averaged over a full year. In this case, the external source is Silicon Valley Clean Energy, which is providing nearly 100% carbon-free electricity.

The panels are expected to sell energy during the summer months, while energy will be needed from the grid during the winter. The output from the solar panels, along with the natural heating, will eliminate most of the energy cost, which had been …


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