DPR Construction celebrated the grand opening of its Phoenix Headquarters on Friday. Built within a former retail space that once housed a Castle Boutique adult novelty shop, the new sustainable office building on 44th Street and Van Buren—dubbed DPR Boutique—was built with the goal to become Arizona’s first Net Zero building, where on-site renewable energy generation is equal to or greater than consumption.

DPR project manager Ryan Ferguson provided me with a tour of the building after the official ribbon cutting. One of the most impressive features was an 87-ft-long solar chimney that not only runs along the center of the building, but is also at the heart of its complex passive heating and cooling design. While the chimney uses natural convection to draw cooler air into the building, other components are computer controlled and fully automated, including windows that open and close throughout the day as needed. Four shower towers—wide, currogated cylinders on the east side of the building—provide up to four tons of evaporative cooling simply through inexpensive plastic tubing and dual shower heads.

During the tour, as employees went about their day-to-day operations, Ferguson pointed out that all of the light in the building’s main space was being provided solely by 82 Solatubes. He also showed off the project’s 79-KW solar array that shades 36 of the site’s parking spaces. Ferguson noted that DPR saved $30,000 of the undisclosed construction cost by cutting 6,000 watts from the originally planned 85-KW photovoltaic system. While it is unusual to hear a company brag about installing fewer solar panels these days, Ferguson’s point was that only through DPR and architect/engineer SmithGroup’s detailed energy modeling were they able to right-size the on-site power generation to match the true energy needs of the building, which will be far less than an equivalent-sized conventional office space.

Apart from the sustainable features, it just looks like a nice place to work at, offering employees a private gym (with showers), meditation room and exterior space enclosed by weathered steel, gabion walls and xeriscaping.

When asked what he hopes prospective clients will notice when they first pass through the building’s bright red entryway, Ferguson said “the open environment, which reflects our culture, and the design features that act as a living lab for our future projects.”

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