Mid-century marvel

Mid-century marvel

In Memphis, Tennessee, a 1957 building has been converted into a net-zero energy net-zero carbon project.

Memphis architecture firm archimania wears its sustainability credentials proudly, having converted an existing 1950s structure, into a contemporary office space that now serves as its HQ.

Rather than starting from scratch, the savvy architects converted the original structure into a workable office promoting wellness through high levels of IAQ and exterior views.

The 929m2 building’s rooftop solar array supplies 107 of power needs, with 100 per cent of cooling/heating/hot water via geothermal.

Because the local  building code prohibits typical boring depth in order to protect the alluvial aquifer, the geothermal HVAC system required shallow (9m) wells.


Plaudits and performance

The small office building was named in the American Institute of Architects 2022 COTE Top Ten for sustainable design excellence.

“The notion of converting a 1957 building and site into a net-zero energy, net-zero carbon project with progressive design hallmarks of resilience, accessibility, and wellness appears mythical,” the AIA says. “Sustainability goals were held alongside goals of sound design, affordability, and research –forcing an integrated approach.”

archimania's contemporary office

The major strategy for improving IAQ was specification and assurance on low-VOC interior finishes and materials, elimination of fossil fuels for all building systems, and enhanced filtration on HVAC systems.

An extraordinary model

Programmable systems controls provide customisable scheduling for lighting and plug load controllers, as well as daylight harvesting integration and occupancy sensors. Energy-reporting software monitors building systems performance.

Of note: This project is the world’s first existing building to be dual-certified Zero Carbon and Zero Energy by the International Living Future Institute.

“This project takes an ordinary mid-century building,” says the AIA, “and makes it an extraordinary model for adaptive reuse.”  

archimania's headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis architecture firm archimania converted a mid-50s building (before – left) to a net-zero energy office (after – right).

Project at a glance

100 per cent of cooling/heating/hot water is via geothermal, with shallow loops to 9m.

107 per cent of electricity offset by solar PV array. 

89 per cent quality views and natural daylighting, with an 18 per cent glass-to-façade ratio.


67 per cent reduction in embodied carbon by up-cycling concrete, steel, masonry and designing  with carbon-smart materials.

100 per cent of interior walls are load-bearing and reconfigurable.

AIRAH Ecolibrium magazine May 2022 cover

This article appears in ecolibrium’s MAY 2022 issue

Want to read more?


Click here to view our archive of issues and features.


Become an AIRAH member or subscribe to Ecolibrium.

What lies beneath

What lies beneath

Geothermal cooling is relatively underdeveloped in Australia, but as Ecolibrium staff writer Nick Johns-Wickberg discovers, its potential is huge.

Esteemed air

Esteemed air

AIRAH’s APER has been approved to register engineers in the ACT.

An eye for innovation

An eye for innovation

As CEO and co-founder of Conry Tech, Sam Ringwaldt, M.AIRAH, is rethinking our approach to HVAC&R.

Meet the experts

Meet the experts

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners Australia, (MHIAA), is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2024, with some special celebrations planned for ARBS.

The fans of Sydney

The fans of Sydney

Ecolibrium staff writer Nick Johns-Wickberg explores how a mobile cooling hub in the Harbour City prevented three medical emergencies this summer past.

Cool comfort

Cool comfort

Federico Tartarini is Senior Research Associate at the Heat & Health Research Incubator, Faculty of Medicine and Health, at the University of Sydney. And soon he’ll be starting a new position as a Sydney Horizon Fellow, Senior Lecturer at the School of Architecture, Design, and Planning, also at Unisyd.