Buildings moving faster toward zero net energy status

Feb. 17, 2017

Graphic courtesy of USGBC

In 2017, the U.S. Green Building Council is setting its expectations to zero — zero net energy. 

According to a report released last quarter by the New Buildings Institute (NBI), there are currently 332 buildings that have been either verified as or are on their way to achieving zero net energy (ZNE). That’s a 74 percent increase since the last count, a little more than a year before.

USGBC officials consider that good news from the building industry, which has an outsized opportunity to take bold action on climate through green buildings that save energy, water and money.

Up from 33 projects in 2014, 53 projects have now been verified by NBI as having achieved ZNE for at least one full year. NBI verifies the performance data, ensuring that the total consumption of energy, from all sources, has been fully balanced by onsite renewable energy generation on an annual basis.

USGBC is looking to complement NBI’s work with ongoing net zero carbon tracking tools built into its new venture, Arc. Arc provides building owners and operators with a new platform to track net zero carbon emissions associated with energy and transportation, along with an array of performance data representing LEED’s full-spectrum focus on building sustainability. 

As a complement to LEED and other green building rating systems, standards, protocols and guidelines, Arc is a performance measurement platform that enables incremental improvements and can put a project on track for LEED or other rating system certification.

More than 60 percent of the 2016 ZNE verified buildings have also earned LEED certification.

A 2014 study by the University of California at Berkeley further emphasized the climate benefits of LEED-certified buildings beyond their operating energy performance. The study found that, “on average, the certified green commercial buildings cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from water consumption by 50 percent, reduced solid waste management-related GHG emissions by 48 percent and lowered transportation-related GHG emissions by 5 percent, when compared to their traditional California counterparts.”

So, if we’re to expect a lot more zero in 2017, where will the most action be seen? The NBI report shows ZNE buildings activity in 39 states and in several Canadian provinces, too. The undisputed ZNE leader is California. State policy nearly 10 years ago set goals for all new residential construction to be ZNE by 2020 and for all new commercial construction to achieve the same by 2030.

L.A. County and USGBC Los Angeles are working on a net zero water ordinance.

In August, 2016, NBI and California state agencies announced a milestone: There were more than 100 commercial buildings in California that were either ZNE verified (17) or working toward that target (91).


Topics: Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Automation and Controls, Building Owners and Managers, Certifications, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Engineering Firms, Great Commercial Buildings, Office Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Trends and Statistics, Technology, Urban Planning and Design, USGBC

Companies: U.S. Green Building Council

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