New Report Finds Projects Expanding in Number, Geography and Building Type
A new report released today by the New Buildings Institute (NBI) and the Zero Energy Commercial Building Consortium (CBC) shows zero energy commercial buildings are cropping up across the United States.
The report, “Getting To Zero 2012 Status Update: A First Look at the Costs and Features of Zero Energy Commercial Buildings” examines the number, location, costs and design strategies of various types of zero energy commercial buildings (ZEBs) as well as zero energy-capable (ZEC) buildings, which are energy efficient enough to be zero energy, but have not taken the final step of on-site renewable generation.
NBI is a nonprofit organization working collaboratively with commercial building professionals and the energy industry to promote better building energy performance. CBC members include over 450 commercial building stakeholders committed to charting a path for achieving net-zero energy commercial buildings. The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) serves as the secretariat for the CBC and also co-sponsored the study.
“Lofty goals have been set for achieving zero energy buildings by 2030. This study is a first look at whether we could possibly reach those goals. The really good news is extremely energy efficient buildings are being demonstrated in a multitude of climates and across building types. This is certainly a good sign for the future of zero energy buildings,” said NBI Executive Director Dave Hewitt.
Diana Lin, CBC program manager noted, “This report provides a glimpse into what’s possible with current technologies. Net-zero energy and zero energy capable buildings are achievable today in certain settings and their reach is increasing. As a long-term policy goal, net-zero energy can be a catalyst for transformative change for the entire building stock.”
Key report findings include:
- ZEBs have been successfully built in most climate zones of the United States.
- The majority of ZEBs to date are small or very small buildings, however there are increasing examples of larger and more complex buildings. Many of the earliest examples are academic buildings or environmental centers, in effect, demonstration buildings sometimes with low occupancy levels. More recent buildings include office buildings, K-8 schools and a credit union; buildings that represent large numbers of “average” or typical buildings.
- ZEBs are constructed using readily available technology. An integrated design approach with careful attention to building site and layout, envelope, mechanical systems, and electrical systems is critical to achieve the high levels of energy efficiency. Unique or experimental systems are infrequently used to reach net zero goals, but the emergence of new technologies will be a factor in the expansion to more building types.
- Modeling studies indicate costs of 3% to 18% for energy efficiency features, depending on building type, size, climate and other variables. Reported incremental costs are only available from a few ZEB projects making conclusions or trends difficult to derive from the limited information available. However, the few reported ZEBs appear to show lower overall incremental costs than modeled estimates, possibly due to positive trade-offs with other features in the design and construction process. Those costs range from 0% to 10%.
A copy of the full report and additional information on ZEBs can be found on NBI’s website.