Insights

Architecture MN: Absolute Zero

The City of St. Louis Park is will open their first zero energy building, Westwood Hills Nature Center, in June.

This is an excerpt from Architecture MN.

In 2018, after a group of high school students petitioned the city council to think more seriously about the impact of climate change on the community, the City of St. Louis Park adopted a climate action plan that would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by 2040. To reach that goal, the community set ambitious targets that would gradually eliminate the use of fossil fuels—the leading cause of excess greenhouse gases—and boost the use of renewable energy sources. The city began replacing gas-powered vehicles and tools with electric ones and installed public charging stations at city hall and the recreation center. Electric accounts that were not powered with renewable energy were switched to Xcel Energy’s Windsource program.

Going forward, per the plan’s mandate, all new construction projects funded by the city would be zero-energy buildings (ZEBs)—meaning that each building’s energy use and production would be balanced (or result in excess power) on an annual basis. “We wanted to be looking toward the future and leading by example,” says Cindy Walsh, the city’s director of operations and recreation. “Even if that sometimes meant paying a premium, we wanted to invest in sustainability.”

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To learn more about Westwood Hills Nature Center, visit Architecture MN.