Net-Zero Buildings

Monday, April 23, 2012

Simply put, a Net Zero Energy building must have a significantly reduced need for energy, and have the capacity to make up for the balance of it by using renewable technology, such as PV (solar) panels, wind, hydroelectricity or bio fuels. Yet, when defining a building that requires zero energy – or “net zero” the Department of Energy explains a “net zero energy” building is determined by the project’s goals, and can fall into any or all of the four categories below:

  1. Net Zero Site Energy – The building produces as much energy on site as it uses within a year.
  2. Net Zero Source Energy – The building produces as much energy from a source as it uses within a year.  A source refers to primary energy used to generate and deliver energy to the site.
  3. Net Zero Energy Costs – The utility company pays the building owner for the energy the building exports to the grid, which is equal to the amount the owner pays the utility company for the energy services during the year.
  4. Net Zero Emissions – The building produces as much emissions-free renewable energy as it uses from an emissions-producing energy source.

The design process is usually where reduction of the building’s energy consumption begins.  Designers take advantage of sunlight, solar heat and the cool temperatures of the earth, and combine them to calculate a method of indoor lighting and stabilizing indoor temperatures. Computer software can help determine how a building will perform using those natural energy resources in relation to the building’s orientation, window and door placement, local climate and more, which can help with cost benefit analysis, financial implications on the building and life cycle assessment.


Solar-powered ranger home at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument - the first net-zero home in the National Park Service. (Photo courtesy of DJC Oregon)

Once the building has been designed, construction specifications include energy-saving features to enhance the building’s efficiency.  Things like added insulation, high-efficiency windows, natural ventilation, skylights and/or solar tubes and solar water heating all depend on climate zones, but can be very effective at reducing a building’s energy intake.

After the building is complete, energy must be harvested. If a building is connected to the grid, extra energy produced by the building may be returned to the grid when it’s not needed, and drawn from the grid when there’s not enough being produced. The building’s primary function – whether it’s a home or business - also impacts how energy is used.

Electricity consumption in the commercial building sector is expected to increase 50% by 2025, and will continue to increase until buildings are designed to offset their energy demand. The U.S. Department of Energy recognizes this, and has established a goal to “create the technology and knowledge base for cost-effective zero-energy commercial buildings by 2025.”

Post has no comments.
Post a Comment

Captcha Image

Trackback Link
Post has no trackbacks.

Recent Posts


central Oregon high school Earth Advantage COCC Ridgeview High School Kirby Nagelhout Construction Company college town Central Oregon Community Colleg Sustainability Education higher education healthy communities Humane Society of Central Oregon Madras Oregon AIA Oregon Oregon State University Deschutes River Facebook Prineville data Center Oregon Trunk Railroad real estate bubble opportunity Historic Renovation four-year university Robberson Ford Bend City Council Lee A. Thomas Madras High School Performing Arts Center Redmond High School Bend 2030 Madras High School Athletic Complex Department of Energy Amity Creek School BBT Architects environmental engineering The American College Town City Club of Central Oregon LEED Redmond Airport central oregon technology GreenBiz Group fresh food Sustainable City Initiative architecture U.S. Forest Service Bend Amateur Athletic Club Open Compute Project City of Bend Bend Chamber of Commerce learning studios Bend Breweries Miller's Landing Park Oregon State Bee Keepers Association Bend Oregon Central Oregon Community College OSU-Cascades COCC Manufacturing & Applied Technology Center Becca's Closet Bend High School Hugh A. Thompson physically active Don Stevens, AIA Serendipity West Foundation Non-Destructive Testing St. Francis School Legos Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence Development Buckingham Elementary School John Day Fossil Beds National Monument BBT scholarship public transportation Xerces Society safety Architecture Foundation of Oregon Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort County Cork, Ireland Boys and Girls Club Cascade Lakes Welcome Station Construction virtual environments education Green Technology Habitat for Humanity Old Mill District Bend Brewfest flipping classrooms Dominic O'Connor National Register of Historic Places Deschutes Brewery Challenge Day Les Schwab Amphitheater Bend School Board R & H Construction Accelerate Bend Net Zero Energy Architects in Schools Father Luke Sheehan Ponderosa Elementary School Cascade Lakes Highway Jefferson County School District Newberry Habitat for Humanity Ochoco Mountains late Beaux Arts Summit High School Irish Capuchin design-related study college campus Technology Education Serendipity West Bend La Pine School District Dull Olson Weekes Architects Warm Springs Academy Fermentation tanks McMenamins


Home | Projects | About | News | Contact | Blog
© 2011 BBT Architects, Inc. All Rights Reserved.