Arizona is increasingly becoming a more environmentally conscious state. In 2020, Arizona was ranked fourth in the nation for solar-powered electricity generation. Many local businesses and organizations are making it a mission to reduce their carbon footprint and gravitate toward renewable energy resources.

Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC), a career technical education public school district and community leader, has done its part in environmental conservatism through the completion of the Next Energy eXperience (NEX) building. West-MEC’s NEX building, located at their Northeast campus in Deer Valley, recently became the first Zero Energy Education Facility in the state, certified by the International Living Future Institute.

According to the American Institute of Architecture, there are only a few dozen buildings in the world certified as Zero Energy Buildings.

“This is a very significant accomplishment that only a handful in the whole world have obtained certification in,” says Greg Donovan, the superintendent of West-MEC. “West-MEC prepares students to create successful futures, but we would be doing all our students a disservice if we were not invested in implementing green energy solutions to ensure we have one. The NEX building will make a positive impact on our community and I hope we serve as an example to other organizations in the Valley looking to do the same.”

NEX is an off-grid building that produces eight percent more energy than is consumed over the year. NEX designers, Phoenix-based integrated design firm DLR Group, placed solar panels on the roof and created ceilings and shading that reduced the need for energy inside. Other capabilities include high efficiency water fixtures and plumbing design; high efficiency mechanical systems, lights fixtures and controls; careful placement of campus buildings and an abundance of windows and skylights to provide adequate daylighting for learning environments.

The NEX building consists of 8,675 square feet of multipurpose space, conceptualized to serve as an exhibition space for hands-on, energy-related events. As the only assembly space for the entire district to hold 400 people, the NEX building is heavily used year-round by the school and community.