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


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


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