It is hard to build a net-zero building—one that produces more energy than it consumes—in the middle of a city. For one thing, nearby skyscrapers might block sunlight from reaching rooftop solar panels. For another, urban office buildings are cramped for space, and it generally isn’t possible to set up wind turbines on site. But Martine Rothblatt, head of biotech company United Therapeutics , would not yield when it came to the company’s new headquarters. When designers warned that erecting a net-zero building in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, would be a formidable task, she replied, “I don’t care. Figure it out.” They did. “She felt very strongly that you cannot achieve net-zero as an afterthought,” says Thomas Kaufman, director of corporate real estate for the company, which develops treatments for rare diseases. “It has to be a mandate at the beginning that drives every single decision.” The result, a 135,000-square-foot building known as the Unisphere, which opened in 2018, is described by the company as the world’s largest commercial net-zero building. It reaches far beyond the usual accouterments like solar panels and LED lights. Rather, it uses a mix of advanced technologies that make the building fully sustainable. This […]

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