Feature image: Casa Anáhuac. Photo credit: Three Consultoria Medio Ambiental.
In May 2021, we launched a challenge to the Latin American market: Let’s go for zero! In January 2022, Casa Anáhuac became not only the first LEED Zero project in Mexico but also the first LEED Zero residential project outside of the United States.
LEED Zero Energy is awarded when a project achieves not only LEED Platinum certification (the highest GBCI rating for a building), but also a source energy balance equal to or less than zero. The energy source metric allows for a more equitable comparison of projects using different energy sources and encourages teams to understand the effects of energy use, beyond the project boundaries.
For the global community, there is a commitment to continue raising sustainability standards. "Net zero" has become the new goal for many builders, communities and cities.
LEED Zero provides that leadership toward a better planet, and Casa Anáhuac is established as a leader in sustainable construction, which was able to achieve this milestone thanks to the commitment of its owners to the environment, the monitoring of its performance data, the clear planning of objectives and work toward a healthier and more sustainable space.
In the words of Erika García, project leader of THREE Consultoria Medioambiental, "During the conception of the project, two very clear goals were defined: The house should be very welcoming for its inhabitants, and at the same time be very efficient in its consumption of energy and water. During the design and construction phases, we realized that even though these goals would seem to be opposite, they were not. With the application of an efficient design, and the use of advanced technology and materials, it was possible to meet the requirements of the family, such as having a lawn and a fully equipped kitchen, among other things, and with the objectives of sustainability and technology, achieving the goal of LEED Zero. This involved a high attention to all details, both aesthetic and functional, and a high involvement of all stakeholders, to achieve a quality project, high-tech, but at the same time a traditional and welcoming "look and feel" for the family."
The vision and commitment of the owner was key to the success of the project. “I am convinced and believe in sustainability as a way to solve the increasingly complicated situation of the environment. We can talk about green and sustainability, but only if we lead by example can we convince more people. I had the opportunity to build the house; the LEED certification was present from the beginning, but on a Gold level. My company, Transforma, became a member of USGBC a few years ago, so it was important for me to do what we promote."
Built in the heart of San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León, the project team drew from their playbook of sustainable design strategies and implemented nearly all of them to successfully achieve first LEED Platinum and then LEED Zero Energy for this project.
Sustainable strategy highlights
- Solar energy: 69 solar panels were installed with a bimonthly production capacity of 4,523 KWh and a thermo-solar system with a capacity of 240 liters.
- Energy-efficient facilities: 100% LED lighting, efficient appliances (dishwasher, washer, dryer, stove), efficient air conditioners, pumps, boiler, insulated pipes for hot water and refrigerants were all used.
- Reused materials: The previous building was carefully deconstructed in order to donate and reuse the material; 89% of the construction waste generated by this project was diverted from the landfill by being reused or recycled.
- Water reuse: Strategies included collection of rainwater for use in irrigation, storage capacity of 10,000 liters. (2,641 gal), and treatment and reuse of gray water with a capacity to treat 64,766 lt. (17,109.38 gal) annually.
- Low water consumption: Programmable drip irrigation with humidity sensors, and toilets and faucets that use 50% less water than conventional water accessories were installed.
- Highly efficient wall and roof assemblies: R-20 insulation was used on the roof (4-inch Styrofoam), with R-10 insulation on all exterior walls (2-inch Styrofoam), argon double-glazed windows, and a rain-sensor operable skylight for auto-powering off.
- Indoor air quality: Air renewal is injected through cleaning filters, and air extraction in bathrooms uses an occupancy sensor.
- Priority site: The project is located on a previously developed site that avoids impacts on undeveloped areas and is connected to a variety of services, such as bus and subway located a short distance away, nearby parks, a food market, a bank and so on.
Lessons learned in meeting the LEED Zero challenge
The project team shared lessons learned in meeting the LEED Zero challenge in Mexico for this particular project.
According to the project owner, "For all of us, it meant studying; we had industrial and commercial experience, but not in homes. We looked for the best way to carry out the project. The design and construction team were trained, and there was a lot of research and interaction and commitments with suppliers. LEED Zero Energy was marked as a possibility once the construction was finished and all systems were selected and installed. Being the successful consequence of the work previously done, all the study and analysis that was done from the beginning was of great use. Investing time pre-engineering and pre-project gave us great benefits that we can now celebrate."
The owner also shared his thoughts on the LEED Zero challenge: "I want you to know that in Latin America, you can also achieve internationally recognized certifications and with the highest quality standards; in the end, caring for the environment leads us to generate changes for the benefit of all—you just have to have the will to do it."
LEED Zero represents the possibility of being able to build to the future, so that we can face the new challenges. Learn more about LEED Zero on usgbc.org and watch our video, LEED Innovators: The LEED Zero Challenge.