A zero net energy (ZNE), zero-energy, or net zero building is a construction that has no net energy consumption. This means that a structure uses the same amount of energy as the amount of renewable energy it creates annually. To obtain Zero Energy Certification, a building must, in most cases, maintain 12 consecutive months of zero energy performance, without using onsite combustion.
ZNE buildings can be constructed anywhere. Because energy can be used and generated efficiently from different means, any geographic location can become a targeted area. Buildings are designed to incorporate alternate forms of energy and usage, including solar power, wind power, hydropower, minimized external energy, energy-sharing, operating schedule diversity, and more.
The efficiency of a ZNE building comes not only from generating power sources, but also from low-energy building techniques (i.e. passive solar building designs), insulation and design, and more.
The unmitigated and upfront cost of these buildings may be more than for traditional construction, but the continued maintenance and operation in the building will be substantially less than in a standard energy structure. While there is an initial investment, there are other means to save money on the front end by
- constructing a building with a smaller footprint,
- using cost-effective, energy-saving materials and products,
- and qualifying for financial incentives (i.e. federal tax credits).
Underlying costs that need to be considered include:
- using integrated structural products (like insulation, vapor barriers, sheathing),
- retaining experienced architectural firms,
- and engaging qualified contractors.
There are government policies that promote ZNE buildings as well. An executive order was signed in October 2009 requiring that all new federal buildings planned by 2020 be “designed to achieve zero-net-energy by 2030.” The Federal Net Energy Building goals also make it a priority to create systems integration solutions that will make possible Marketable Net Zero Energy Homes and Commercial Net Zero Energy Buildings at low incremental cost in the near future. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 calls for 100% reduction of fossil-fuel energy use for new federal buildings, along with significant renovations by 2030.
Clearly, there are many policies in place and being revised to keep up with better building sustainability and to move towards more ZNE buildings. WDM Architects is and will be behind the net-zero movement in every way. To learn more about ZNE buildings, contact us today!