MiraCosta College

ZNE Spells Sustainability at MiraCosta College

  • Project: School Modernization and Expansion
  • Type: Higher Education
  • Scope: Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Science Building
  • Completion Date: August 2013

Project Background

A shortage of lab space made it difficult for students at MiraCosta Community College to register for science courses in the school’s biology, chemistry and nursing programs. To permit expansion of course offerings, the MiraCosta Board of Trustees retained American Modular Systems to build a modular Gen7 science building on the Oceanside campus. The custom Gen7 structure meets the college’s need for a completely sustainable scientific learning environment, delivering both ultra-modern laboratory and prep space designed to LEED standards. Run on solar power, with natural ventilation and smart LED lighting, the Zero Net Energy building achieves maximum energy efficiency and load reduction, generating as much clean energy onsite as it consumes over the course of a calendar year.


High demand for science courses created an immediate need for state-of-the-art lab space, constructed quickly, affordably and in accordance with the College’s comprehensive Master Plan. Permanent modular construction needed to include the latest energy technology and highly sustainable features, creatively combined to minimize the building’s environmental impact and support the College’s vision of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.


To design and construct a custom, fully sustainable modular science building that provides technologically-advanced, highly energy-efficient “learning labs” that serve as a hands-on educational tool for students, while complementing the architectural façade of existing buildings.


Designed to achieve cutting-edge sustainability, while significantly reducing the building’s energy demand and carbon footprint, the Gen7s include 10kW PV panels, mounted on a “cool roof” that reflects heat from the sun. Large low-E view windows and a natural ventilation system lessen the need for air conditioning, keeping the space comfortable for occupants while safely filtering out impurities. Customized inside and out, the interior features easy-to-clean surfaces and extra storage for lab supplies, while the exterior updates the campus aesthetic with striking stone veneer wainscoting and slanted overhangs that optimize PV orientation for maximum energy production. Installed mid-June 2013, the labs opened to students in August, an expeditious turnaround for a ZNE building that exceeds California Title 24 by 70%.