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A Building That Blows Away City Codes. On Purpose.

Hillhouse Construction Company lives and breathes sustainability. And that purpose pays off.

Kevin Bates with Sharp Development Company explained that their latest project is built far beyond city code requirements. Property owners and their tenants in Silicon Valley look for sustainability and because of their business ethic, they get beyond what they ask for. They get long term economic benefits, improved health and increased productivity of their employees.

The buil

ding, at 415 Indio in Sunnyvale, was an old tilt-up, last used as a racquetball club is now repurposed as a very modern, successful retrofit. The concrete walls and floors were largely saved, providing the thermal mass to smooth out temperature swings. Kevin described a recent day when the temperature outside was 94, while inside it was only 69. Almost chilly! When the building is occupied, equipment and human heat warm things up.

The building is all-electric, no natural gas, using all solar photovoltaic panels. One twist, recent demand for high efficiency panels has dried up the supply and Sharp had to settle for less efficient panels, but they made it work. For Kevin, net zero means net zero bill, not net zero energy. PG&E simply doesn’t pay enough to justify overproduction of electricity.

Kevin delved deep into the


  1. There are temperature sensors in the concrete, CO2 sensors and rain sensors. All these sensors are connected to a system that opens and closes windows to bring in outside air as needed.

  2. They used fabric to finish the industrial looking ceiling. It is fire rated sail cloth, with light reflective and sound deadening properties. It looks great, though a bit unusual. A team of upholstery workers eventually nailed the technique, and it is now less expensive than conventional t-bar drop ceiling construction.

  3. The building is so energy efficient that plug loads now account for 70% of the demand. That means owners and tenants really need to understand how to use the building. It’s not rocket science, just different.

  4. The lights and fans have wireless control. There is so much wireless technology that the Fire Department was concerned their emergency channel would be blocked when needed. It wasn’t which saved the cost of a $15,000 booster.

  5. The green plant wall is a hugely dramatic, beautiful, punctuation point that will improve air quality, and connect employees to a very natural element. How will it look next year? We’re optimistic its beauty won’t fad.

In fact, we are optimistic about the whole project. This really is the look of the sustainable future!

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