Zero-Net Energy Building

Did you know that buildings use more energy than any industry sector?  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), residential and commercial buildings account for 40% of energy use in the United States and 74% of the electricity use. Now we have a solution – Zero-Net Energy building.

Everyone knows about LEED, but have you heard about Zero-Net Energy (ZNE) building? The first word that comes to mind when I hear ZNE is FREE. That’s right, free.  

Zero-net energy is when a building produces as much energy as it consumes. It doesn’t mean green or LEED; it simply means the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created or used.

Now, don’t confuse ZNE with LEED. They are both sustainable but substantially different.  Where LEED’s goal is to help do less harm to the environment; ZNE’s goal is to save energy.  

LEED uses a point system, while ZNE building is measured by the amount of renewable energy produced. LEED does not focus on final energy performance but rather on materials used for the project. In addition, unlike LEED’s point system and certification, ZNE is performance-based by definition. Buildings have to operate at least a year at stabilized occupancy before they can be verified as ZNE.

To get there, we first have to determine an Energy Use Intensity (EUI) for the building with a focus on energy reduction and efficiency. Then we can calculate how much renewable energy the building will need to provide. 

While this sounds like something every building owner would want, the construction cost might scare some away. Construction costs for a ZNE building is substantially higher than a regular build due to the cost of energy-efficient building materials, plus the renewable energy cost. Construction costs are comparable with a LEED platinum building but with much greater returns.

What seems impossible several years ago is our reality today. As of 2016, there were 332 verified Net-Zero buildings in the U.S., including 30 verified Net-Zero schools and one ZNE school emerging (not yet verified) in Irving, Texas.

Contact us to find out more about ZNE, and how you can help lead the way to a ZNE building future. 

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