Across North America, architects and building owners are coming up with intricate, multi-faceted solutions to get their projects to net zero energy. One glass and glazing industry expert has developed a method he thinks is a little simpler.

Nick Bagatelos of California-based Bagatelos Architectural Glass Systems and BISEM USA recently completed the design of a pre-fabricated component system office building using all the apparatuses required in a building envelope. Material components in his design include vacuum insulated panels, vacuum insulating glass, photovoltaic and electrochromic glass, pre-fabricated wiring, daylighting elements and solar hot water generation.

netzeroThe standard panels are approximately four-by-14-feet and can be installed after the structural steel is completed.

“The key to cost-effective, zero net energy buildings is the skin,” he says. He applied that approach to his newest venture, and now it’s a matter of whether it will catch on or not.

The concept came to Bagatelos after renovating his own manufacturing facility, where he implemented skylights, high efficiency glazing and an efficient heating system. Once he got the energy use down to 60-65 percent, he added solar to the roof. At $1 million, the cost of adding solar wasn’t cheap, but with the available $300,000 tax credit, energy cost savings and eventual payback that results from net zero energy, it became cost-effective.

Since then, his company developed a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) curtainwall to add additional energy harvesting area to a building. However, despite getting the price point down to what he considered reasonable, he hit more obstacles on the marketplace.

“It’s price driven, but it’s not just price,” he says. “In the construction value stream, there are several decision-makers—the owner, architect, contractor, subcontractor, electrician, etc.—and they all have to say yes. There are a lot of barriers I didn’t realize.”

That’s where the idea of an all-inclusive, pre-fabricated building envelope came.

He says the prefabricated building is equal to the market price of a standards Class A office and produces 100 percent of the energy required for the occupants. Targeted for large suburban office parks, Bagatelos has designed four sizes of the pre-fabricated building: 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 and 60,000 square feet each.

He claims the buildings can be erected 20-percent faster than regular construction and be delivered with complete engineering and knockdown. His company or an affiliate would do the installation, or the system could be sold to a contract glazer.

Additionally, owners and architects could make adjustments as needed. For example, a call center that is running at a higher plug load than the average building would need to harvest more energy, which could be achieved via adding additional photovoltaics to the skin.

Now, it’s a matter of getting the first building owner to bite, as he has been marketing the concept to developers throughout California. He says he has at least four developers ready to build, but is waiting for one to pull the trigger.

“When I talk to developers, they like the idea,” he says, adding that some are still wary of using what they perceive as lots of new technology. “But the fact is,” he says, “all this technology has been around for ten years.”

Bagatelos says it’s important for the industry to continue to push for solutions that put a premium on the building envelope. “If we can drive the skin, we can drive the design,” he says. “If we can do things like this, we can win the battle for the wall.”

Bagatelos is slated to give a lunch presentation at the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance’s winter conference next week in Indian Wells, Calif.