Essential to the development of a low carbon economy will be the advancement of building product and process to reduce the capital and whole lifecycle cost of low, zero and net-positive energy buildings to allow these structures to be realized at a greater rate. On the whole, the built environment is responsible for one of the largest fractions of global energy consumption and thus anthropomorphic climate change, a result of the greenhouse gas emissions from power generation. When one also considers the energy required to design, fabricate, transport and construct the materials necessary to bring new building stock online, keeping pace with the rapid trend towards urbanization, the importance of the built environment in the energy sustainability equation is clearly evident. Yet, while technologically feasible, the realization of carbon neutral buildings is encumbered by the perception of increased annualized costs for operation and a greater upfront investment. This paper will review the design case of the Masdar International Headquarters, the flagship building of the net-zero carbon emission Masdar city currently being developed within the Abu Dhabi Emirates. Specifically, how an integrated approach enabled by computer simulation early within the design process allowed for improvements in economy and efficiency, setting a model for future high performance buildings. The five-story, 89,040-square-meter office building will incorporate eleven sculpted glass environmental towers to promote natural ventilation and introduce daylight to the interior of the building. These towers will also serve as the structural support for one of the world’s largest building integrated photovoltaic arrays, sized to supply 103% of the building’s total annual energy requirements while protecting the building and roof garden from intense heat and solar gains. Moreover, by integration into a separate structural trellis system, clean energy can potentially be generated to offset construction requirements while dually shading workers below during the heat of the day. This, along with other key sustainability design strategies such as a solar powered central district cooling system, thermoactive foundation piling, underfloor air distribution, desiccant dehumidification, a nanotechnology enabled building envelope and smart grid enabled facilities management infrastructure will allow the Masdar Headquarters to reach carbon neutrality within a decade, allowing for the remaining century of its operation to serve as a platform for clean energy generation.

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