Stanford University Central Energy Facility

Lead DesignerJoe Collins
ClientToby Hasselgren
Prize(s)1st Place in Architecture Categories / Sustainable Living/Green
Entry Description

The Stanford University Central Energy Facility embodies
the latest technological advances and eco-district
planning solutions. This transformational campus-wide
energy system is also yielding compelling results:
greenhouse gas emissions slashed by 68%, fossil fuel use
reduced by 65%, and campus-wide water use reduced by
15%. The high-performance, climate-responsive design of
the plant administration building will result in net positive
energy performance. Sited at the edge of the campus,
the new facility responds to the goals of Stanford’s long-
range Energy and Climate Action Plan and overall
Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI) program.
SESI includes an innovative heat recovery loop that
captures nearly two-thirds of waste heat generated by
the campus cooling system to produce hot water for the
heating system. The entrance features an expansive
photovoltaic (PV) trellis that provides shade and cover,
and more electricity than needed to power the net-
positive-energy Administrative/Teaching Facility. The
overall architectural expression is one of lightness,
transparency and sustainability to express the facility’s
purpose. The Central Energy Facility’s materiality takes
cues from Stanford’s rich collection of historical and
contemporary buildings. Stanford’s classic limestone
buildings are represented by integrally-colored, board-
formed concrete, while weathered CorTen steel accents
suggest the terra-cotta tile roofs. Extensive glazing, dark
steel columns and polished aluminum establish a
contemporary vernacular, while reclaimed wood soffits in
the arcades add warmth. The exterior is predominantly
curtainwall, maximizing natural light for the interior work
stations and classrooms, while animating the facility from
the outside. Glass-enclosed office spaces and an outdoor,
multi-use room float above the entrance, providing views
out to central campus as well as into the hub of the
facility, where a paved and landscaped courtyard displays
the primary thermal storage tank, painted “Stanford Red.”
At night, lights directed through slender perforated steel
columns transform the facility’s centerpiece hot water
tank into a red, glowing beacon.


ZGF Architects LLP is a design firm with a focus on architecture, interior design, and urban design. Founded in Portland, Oregon, with a mission to strive for design excellence, stewardship of our natural and built environment, and exceptional client service, the firm has grown to include offices in Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, New York, and ZGF Cotter Architects Inc. in Vancouver, BC. ZGF’s design philosophy is centered on the premise that design excellence should be reflected in each and every aspect of a building—its fit with the community, its function and relationship to its users, its building systems, and its cost. The firm’s design portfolio is intentionally diverse, ranging from transportation terminals, commercial office and mixed-use developments to corporate campuses, healthcare and research buildings, academic facilities, libraries, and museums. In addition to receiving more than 770 local, regional, and national design awards, ZGF was honored with the American Institute of Architects’ highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award, recognized for “creatively transforming client needs and aspirations into elegant, inventive architectural form, and establishing a standard of excellence and expectation of quality to which other firms aspire.”