Net-Zero Energy Buildings Are Next Frontier

Now, that green building practices have been accepted by the global construction industry, the field is moving forward to the next frontier.

Net-zero energy buildings produce as much energy as they consume. 

Revenue from net-zero energy buildings will grow rapidly over the next 20 years, reaching almost $690 billion by 2020 and nearly $1.3 trillion by 2035, projects Pike Research.  That’s a compound annual growth rate of 43%.

Much of that growth will be in the European Union, where public buildings must be net-zero energy by 2019 and all construction by 2021. 

The final language for EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive – which governs building energy codes – is still being worked out, but it’s expected to drive significant investment in these technologies over the next few decades. 

Similar regulations are under consideration in Japan and parts of the US.   The construction industry is already developing products and services to meet anticipated demand.

"Following the surge in LEED and other green building certifications worldwide over the last few years, net-zero energy building has emerged as the ‘holy grail’ in green building design," says research analyst Eric Bloom. "Technically, net-zero energy building design is feasible for many building types in many regions, but concerns about the upfront cost continue to impede it in the market."

While technologies such as efficient lighting and HVAC systems, improved insulation, solar photovoltaic and other systems add somewhat to upfront costs, they are rapidly coming down. Advances in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies improve system performance and reduce costs over the medium and longer-term.

In May, TD Bank opened the first "net-zero energy" branch in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Only eight buildings in the US are registered as net-zero energy with the Department of Energy (DOE).

In 2010, DOE awarded $76 million from the Recovery Act to support advanced energy-efficient building technology projects and the development of training programs for commercial building equipment technicians, building operators, and energy auditors.  $23 million of that was allocated for Advanced Building Control Strategies, Communications, and Information Technologies for Net-Zero Energy Buildings. 

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Comments on “Net-Zero Energy Buildings Are Next Frontier”

  1. Peter McMillin

    As the Project Manager for the NREL Research Support Facility Expansion, the most energy efficient, net zero office building ever built, we have achieved success never imagined. This is by far the largest net zero ever built in the US, a total of 370,000sf vs the previous 13,000sf. Please feel free to contact me if you wish to become more informed on how we made this happen.

  2. Patrick OLeary

    Futura Solar & DCM-A&E are offering a multiple solar benefit roofing system for low profile commercial-industrial buildings that will accomplish these goals and routinely provide significant energy to the business operating below that roof.

  3. David Hronek

    The firm I work for, Harley Ellis Devereaux, has recent experience in the design of Net Zero Energy buildings. As a sustainable design and LEED were new concepts that took time to catch on and now is just how we design buildings, so I believe will be Net Zero. As a sustainable design advocate and LEED accredited professional, I have been making the argument the Higher Education market, with acres of sprawling campuses, millions of square feet of facilities, growing enrollments and energy costs, and shrinking capital construction and O&M budgets, are ripe for this type of building. Becomong a Net Zero campus would mean the limited resources that they do receive from state legislatures or endowments can be redirected to improve the quality of education and be of benefit to their commmunities. And it can be done over years of thoughtful planning, good design, institutional leadership, and community support. I saw first hand recently this tatic being employed on a campus in Southern California. Net Zero energy buildings are the future.

  4. Laura Blau

    As Certified Passive house Consultants trained in the EU near Zero approach to building we see this as a “no-brainer” we are finding that for modest scale projects this is the way to go. Conservation first, superior building envelope design and very minimal “active” HVAC systems. The cost is nominal with big ROI. IF is great for mixed use projects where LEED and EnergyStar are either unfeasible or unavailable.

  5. Ben Wilson, PE

    LEED has always been viewed as having good intentions, although a little mis-guided. This will further help to steer more away from it.

  6. Ben Wilson, PE

    Why does this website find it necessary to delete comments that don’t necessarily agree with the net-zero religion? There have been several that were not profane and have been removed. Why?

  7. Rona Fried

    We delete comments when they are garbled and don’t make sense or when they’re so filled with typos, it’s embarressing.

  8. Marty Walters

    The first rule of good design? Reduce the load through passive means. Insulated thermal mass achieves this. Insulated concrete block has the same approx insulation configuration as the sandwich panels used in the NREL net zero building, and can be a value engineering option on the road to net zero.
    The advanced energy saving design guides co- produced by ASHRAE, USGBC, US DOE, and AIA all recognize that insulated thermal mass is the most energy efficient insulation configuration for mass walls. The problem is that (partly because of competing commercial interests), the building codes do not reflect this, and energy modeling programs like eQuest do not accurately measure the value of insulated thermal mass configurations.

  9. Ben Wilson, PE

    “We delete comments when they are garbled and don’t make sense or when they’re so filled with typos, it’s embarressing.”

    -’emabarressing’ isn’t it?

  10. Larry Stevens

    Zero Energy Buildings – How many tax dollars per KWH is one of these buildings going to cost the tax paying public. When these buildings are attractive without DOE funding or some other government agency injecting cash to get them built then they will be strong market in the future. What are the pay back figures for example?

  11. John Black

    The author seems to be using two terms when meaning to imply the same thing, however, mean two entirely DIFFERENT things.

    The term “Net Zero Energy” and “Zero Energy Building” are as difference as night and day.

    “Zero Energy Building” means there is ZERO ENERGY – so there may as well be no electrical outlets, or natural gas piping, since no computers, lights, HVAC, refrigerators, washers and dryers cannot operate in the building without energy!

    “Net Zero Energy” on the other hand, means that the energy generated onsite for the building, through one of the distributed energy resources, whether a natural gas fueled trigeneration energy system or a solar trigeneration energy system, generates as much energy over the course of the year as the building would consume.

    A good site for the author and others to visit would is:

    Words have meanings and “Net Zero Energy” does NOT mean the same as “Zero Energy Buildings.”


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