In 2010, when I was reporting the Jeff Baker Award of Excellence story, I heard—off the record—about another net-zero-annual-energy-use (NZE) building project just entering the design stage that had been influenced by the performance-based design-build NZE Research Support Facility (RSF) at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). Baker was the visionary behind that building.  

The newer, second-generation "RSF-like" project, called the Sacramento Municipal Utility District East Campus Operations Center, is now complete. And the building team just received permission from the owner to talk about it to the press.

ENR is a construction magazine and, as such, writes about projects before they are complete. Ergo, with so many owners muffling and muzzling their building teams during construction, it is becoming more and more difficult to write multi-dimensional project stories—before the buildings are finished.
I blame the owners' "publicity shyness" on the web, in general, and on key-word searches, in particular. Almost everything in the print version of ENR is available on line at the touch of a keystroke. In the old days, anyone who did not subscribe had to go to the library to read ENR.

If even one word is written about a project that could be construed as negative, the entire world can read about it. That's why owners, many of whom had never even heard of ENR 20 and 30 years ago, have added clauses to the contracts of their building teams that either stipulate they cannot talk to the press without permission or they cannot talk to the press at all during the project or even after it, unless given a green light.

All this makes it more difficult to be a journalist. (Ironically, the web makes it easier to find information about people and projects. Yet, it also makes it tougher to report project stories.)

In a separate blog that will follow soon, I am going to let the ENR reader, and the world, know of some of the challenges and the solutions faced by the design team for the SMUD project. The blog will be offered from the point of view of the architect-engineer Stantec, which designed the building in association with RNL—the architect for the NREL RSF.

This SMUD blog is a single-source story. Blogs have fewer restrictions than true journalism.