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Net Zero Energy

Net Zero Energy means that a building balances its energy needs with energy produced from renewable, zero-emission sources. While Net Zero Energy buildings may seem cutting edge, they will become status quo faster than you think.

Cost Savings

Net Zero Energy facilities have lower operating and maintenance costs, better resiliency to power outages and natural disasters, and improved energy security.

Source: DOE, A Common Definition for Zero Energy Buildingsopens in new window

Net Zero Energy is different from previous energy efficiency approaches in two ways:

  1. The baseline and target are "zero" (instead of a percentage improvement over prior performance).
  2. The energy you use must be supplied from renewable energy.

The Department of Energy has released a common definition for net zero energy buildings: "An energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy." The full report, which includes explanations and definitions on the building, campus, portfolio, and community scale, can be found hereopens in new window.

Net Zero Concept

The concept of Net Zero is applicable to all resource use (e.g. energy, water, waste) to move us toward truly sustainable buildings. Energy is the firstresource to be targeted because:

  • The building industry already has basic energy management tools.
  • Continual improvement in energy efficiency is expected.
  • Net Zero Energy offers significant operational savings.
  • Distributed energy and redundancies improve our disaster resiliency.

Who is working on Net Zero Energy buildings?

Federal legislation has established Net Zero Energy targets

Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Section 433(a) "Federal buildings must reduce fossil fuel-generated energy consumption by increasing percentages reaching 100% reduction in 2030"

State and local initiatives have established Net Zero Energy targets

State and Local Initiatives
California The Public Utilities Commission created the “Zero Net Energy Commercial Action Plan” as part of the Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan.
Massachusetts The Executive Office of Energy and the Environment created a plan for transforming buildings to Net Zero Energy.
Oregon The Energy Trust of Oregon created a “Path to Net Zero” pilot program.
Seattle, Washington Seattle created a goal of carbon neutrality by the year 2030. The Seattle 2030 District, a public-private collaborative, is working towards that goal with a high-performance building district in downtown Seattle.

Industry programs have established Net Zero Energy targets

Industry Programs
Architecture 2030 The 2030 Challenge advocates for carbon neutral buildings by the year 2030.
AIA 2030 Commitment The American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2030 Commitment provides a framework to evaluate design options to support Net Zero Energy.
ASHRAE Vision 2030 The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Vision 2030 aims to create tools and strategies to support Net Zero Energy.
Living Building Challenge The Living Building Challenge - Net Zero Energy Building Certification requires not only that a building achieve Net Zero Energy, but also that it does not negatively impact the ability of other buildings to achieve Net Zero Energy (i.e. by shading or urban sprawl).

Net Zero buildings are a reality with successful examples in operation today. Following are examples of Net Zero buildings:

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