DPR Sacramento Zero Net Energy Office

Architecture Firm: SmithGroup

Owner: DPR Construction

Location: Sacramento, Calif.

Project site: Previously developed land

Building program type(s): Office – 10,001 to 100,000sf

For its new headquarters in Sacramento, DPR Construction envisioned a sustainable work environment that would foster a greater sense of collaboration among its employees and would have strong ties to both nature and the surrounding community. The net zero energy project includes the renovation of an almost 27,000-square-foot building originally constructed in 1940 and a 5,600-square-foot addition built entirely with cross-laminated timber. As a compelling new addition to “The City of Trees,” the office is filled with biophilic design elements, a highlight of which is a seed wall that upends the concept of a living wall. It contains dormant seeds instead of live plants, including a selection of native grassland species that are vital to more than 90% of California’s wildlife.


DPR Construction’s new headquarters in downtown Sacramento reimagines two existing buildings to create a sustainable work environment that fosters collaboration and connects employees to both nature and the surrounding community. Inspired by the office’s location in “The City of Trees,” the project incorporates biophilic design elements that include exposed woodgrain panels, sculptural “grow columns,” a seed wall, and abundant plantings. A sliding-glass wall welcomes natural breezes, creating a soothing environment. A rooftop terrace nestled in the treetops and shaded by a canopy of photovoltaics creates a parklike space for work or respite.

DPR’s point of view embodies two fundamental beliefs: respect for the individual and the belief that "We can change the world." Rather than building new, DPR chose to renovate the 26,872-square-foot space, which was originally built in 1940. This decision emphasizes DPR’s commitment to sustainability, showcasing how older structures can be transformed into sustainable, highly desirable office space. It is the first to use cross-laminated timber (CLT) shear walls in California, the first CLT structure in Sacramento, and the largest CLT addition to an existing building in the United States. The 5,600-square-foot addition is constructed entirely of CLT, including load-bearing and structural elements.

North-South section diagram displaying key elements of Design for Integration including glazing, materials selection, and adaptive re-use. Image: SmithGroup

With this new office, DPR aimed to take care of people and place by providing a welcoming atmosphere for employees, guests, and the surrounding community, building within environmentally and socially conscious means. This included executing design and construction in a fiscally responsible manner that analyzed life cycle costs. The project also aimed to create a transformative workplace that challenges staff to think differently about work and provides flexibility for future growth. Lastly, the design showcases what DPR made possible with commercially available products while maintaining its passion to put sustainability first and stand out from the crowd. A range of work areas enables both heads-down and collaborative tasks: meeting rooms, break rooms, open collaborative areas, focus areas, a training room, and lounge spaces. Local artists designed custom art installations to enliven the space, referencing the culture of DPR and the city of Sacramento.

The office design seeks to address climate change through energy conservation, passive design, renewable energy, and reductions in embodied energy, all the while creating buildings that enhance the well-being of their occupants and the regional community. Consistent with decarbonization goals, the project is all-electric and all operational carbon emissions are scope 2. However, the project’s on-site photovoltaic array provides more power than the building consumes, so the project is net zero energy with no net operational carbon emissions. The office is a retrofit of a poorly performing existing building, which not only capitalizes on the embodied carbon of the building materials that already exist but also removes a poorly performing building from the grid. Net zero energy will be a requirement for all commercial buildings in California by 2030, and the design meets and exceeds this mandate. It targets net positive energy along with LEED Platinum and WELL certification standards.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2018

Year of substantial project completion: 2019

Gross conditioned floor area: 17,727 sq. ft.

Number of stories the building has: Two

Project site: Previously developed land

Project site context/setting: Urban

Annual hours of operation: 2,490

Site area: 30,530 sq. ft.

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $10,000,000

Total annual users: 2,000

Project team

Architect/Landscape Architect: SmithGroup

Building Dashboard: Lucid

CxA: 3QC

Design- Build Electrical: Environmental Innovation Group

Design- Build Mechanical and Plumbing: Lawson Mechanical

Design- Build Fire Sprinklers: Systems Tech Controls

Engineer - Civil: Wallace- Kuehl & Associates

Engineer - Structural: Buehler Engineering

General Contractor: DPR Construction

Savings by Design: Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Sunbelt CLT and Glulam: Structurelam

Third Party Energy Modeling: Brummitt Energy Associates (now Stok)


Katie Ackerly, AIA, Chair, David Baker, Oakland, Calif.

Julian Owens, Assoc. AIA, Jacobs, Arlington, Va.

Seonhee Kim, AIA, Design Collective, Baltimore

Avinash Rajagopal, Metropolis, New York

Image credits

View looking West on exterior terrace showing large operable window wall, solar shade trellis and view to existing trees and J street.

© Chad Davies

View from new mass timber addition looking South to terrace.

© Chad Davies

View to new DPR entry and level 2 mass timber addition, exterior façade restored to original building materials.

© Chad Davies

View from communicating stair to open collaboration area in mass timber addition showcasing the seed wall.

© Chad Davies

Aerial Southwest corner view

© Chad Davies