A four-year $3.8M effort funded by the California Energy Commission will convert the William Penn Hotel (a historic, mixed-use building with low-income housing) into a showcase of innovative Zero Net Energy (ZNE) building design. The site includes a theater, offices and housing for ninety-one, low-income residents — including many formerly homeless and at-risk adults. The project is seeking innovative solutions and products to address a high-density urban housing environment in a high performance building. Project partners include Chinatown Community Development Center, RMW Architects, Integral Group, National Renewables and Energy Laboratory, and the San Francisco 2030 District.

Additional Detail on InnovateNetZero

  • Building: William Penn Hotel
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Building Area: 41,836 sq. ft.
  • Number of Units: 94 Single-Room Occupancy units (SROs)
  • Background Information: The William Penn Hotel houses a Direct Access to Housing (DAH) program for chronic inebriates, providing permanent housing for many formerly homeless and at-risk adults. In addition, the building features a five-theater, 300-seat community theater and office for a non-profit that serves the Southeast Asian community in San Francisco.
  • Preliminary Systems Description (additional details to be provided in September):
    • Space heating to each unit is provided by a natural-gas fired boiler and distributed through in-room radiators.
    • Ventilation and natural lighting are provided by operable windows which face internal light shafts.
    • The common space areas are illuminated by T8 linear fluorescent lighting.


  • Special constraints
    • The William Penn Hotel is part of the Upper Tenderloin Historic District, a registered national historic place since 2009. Renovations must limit modifications to the building’s façade.
    • Renovations must limit length of resident displacement and disruption to the building.

Project Partners

project site fly-through

Project Award Announcement

Press release with details about InnovateNetZero

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