News Brief

The World’s First LEED Zero Building

Engineering firm Petinelli has scored LEED Zero Energy certification with its headquarters in Curitiba, Brazil.

Petinelli headquarters in Curitiba, Brazil

A rooftop solar array and onsite constructed wetland have helped the Petinelli headquarters, housed in a converted warehouse, to achieve net-zero energy and water.

Photo: Petinelli
Platinum used to be the ultimate LEED rating. Not anymore. A new program, LEED Zero, asks project teams to show a year’s worth of data proving zero impact in at least one of four categories: energy, carbon, water, or waste.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has now awarded its first LEED Zero certification, for net-zero energy, to engineering and consulting firm Petinelli for its headquarters in the Brazilian city of Curitiba.

“We’ve been bugging USGBC about net-zero energy for a while now,” commented Guido Petinelli, managing director at the firm. “It was a pleasant surprise to hear about the launch of LEED Zero just before Greenbuild Chicago.”

Petinelli immediately jumped at the chance to certify its headquarters, which has been net-positive energy for more than a year and also recently achieved Platinum under LEED v4 for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (O+M) using the Arc platform. “It was always a dream to have a net-zero-energy and -water HQ.”

The building itself is a converted two-story warehouse, roughly 4,700 ft2, originally built in the 1980s. A 15kW rooftop solar array provides 25% more energy than is needed to operate the 25-person office space. “We didn’t understand this at the time, but LEED Platinum was a stepping stone toward LEED Zero,” said Petinelli. “It helps that Brazil is a sunny place.”

The firm has publicly committed to achieving LEED Platinum on all its projects, but now Petinelli is also focusing on LEED Zero in his conversations. “Zero is such a simple concept that’s far more accessible to those outside the construction industry,” Petinelli added. “It is human nature to want to do better, and recognition is a powerful motivator. I find it easier to convince clients to go for Platinum, and now LEED Zero, than to just certify.”

Petinelli is next considering certifying under LEED Zero Water. “We have been off the grid on water for almost two years now,” he said. “We harvest and treat rainwater as a source for potable water.” The project also has a constructed wetland and uses 100% of its wastewater for irrigation and toilet flushing.

More on net-zero energy

Five Reasons to Be Optimistic About Solar Energy

Why Schools Are Embracing Net-Zero Energy

LEED Zero: A LEEDuser Orientation

Published April 2, 2019

Melton, P. (2019, April 2). The World’s First LEED Zero Building . Retrieved from

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April 29, 2019 - 7:37 pm

It has taken far too long for the LEED to acknowledge net-zero buildings. Prior projects have had obstacles thrown in their path by the USGBC -- such as net-zero energy buildings not being allowed to claim green energy credits, thereby trying to force a Platinum building to fall short and accept LEED Gold as the rating. Strange.

     I recommend that you take a look at the Audubon Center at Debs Park (the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California), a nature center, which is an off-the-grid building -- thereby net-zero -- that earned fewer Platinum points as a result of the odd USGBC policy regarding who can buy Green Power. The Center has solar hot water, solar heating and cooling (absorption chiller), photovoltaics with battery storage (3-4 days of battery power during winter solstice), and zero-water using native plants (several acres).

     The Audubon Center is also user-friendly. Kids can look for bugs by spreading pond mud they collect from the site on the classroom tables, or the floor if they wish. Not many, if any other, LEED Platinum buildings are that level of user-friendly.

     LEED Zero Water will be interesting to see what the conditions set for that are. Can the building be connected to the water grid, and calculate net-zero water -- just like with net-zero energy can? What about off-the grid water buildings? Those which use treated rainwater and treated wastewater to meet all their water needs? Will a building that goes the extra step earn the same LEED points as building connected to the water grid, or will be it be consider at a higher level? 

     The Audubon Center at Debs Park that was designed, and built, to be zero-water use. But it was not allowed to make the final connection to use treated waste water by the City of Los Angeles … some worry about kids drinking treated wastewater out of a toilet … but they had no worries about drinking City water out of a toilet. LEED Zero Water may not be friendly to buildings that are restricted by local rules and laws. 

April 29, 2019 - 10:32 pm

Solar PV arrays are outdated, toxic and inefficient. While I appreciate the effort, it's like the mainstream builders and designers are lost in an unintelligible paradigm. LEED appears to be the enemy of critical thought in design. Is there any mainstream builder not lost in the fog. Anyone willing to set the bar so much higher. I am available at