The Next Trend in Green Construction: The Net Zero Building

June 21, 2012

green building

It’s an exciting time to be in the renewable energy or green constriction industries. Year after year, new standards bodies are formed and enable all kinds of exciting new building standards and adoption of eco-friendly materials. In 2012, green building trends are moving solidly in the direction of the “Net Zero Building.” That defines a building that uses the same amount of energy per day as it produces using renewable sources like solar energy and others. This differs from standards like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) classification, as it specifically states that building must produce and consume an equal amount of renewable energy. Essentially, the building must be neutral and “invisible.”

Net Zero Buildings are Increasingly Popular in the United States

Though the standard for a Net Zero Building is relatively new, there are actually 12 such buildings in the United States already. That’s a pretty promising sign of growth, but it’s actually not the only one. In addition to the twelve verified Net Zero buildings currently in operation nationwide, another right buildings are alleged to meet the standard set out by the group to qualify as a Net Zero operation. That would bring the total number of buildings to 20, if those eight buildings are verified, but even that is not the last sign of progress in the U.S.

In addition to the 12 (or 20) existing Net Zero buildings, dozens of new projects are underway to bring neutral renewable energy use to all kinds of environments. Office buildings are adopting an all-new kind of window that is far more energy efficient than the satyrical double-pane office window of years past, and warehouse environments are deploying advanced warehouse management system implementations to control the usage of energy and fuel sources by employees. The prospect of the Net Zero building project looks pretty bright in the United States, as adopting of green materials and energy sources increase.

Wider Adoption of Green Materials and Solar Energy in the U.S.

One of the main concerns cited by businesses and constriction outfits of every size is that going green is simply too costly. It’s certainly true that the up-front costs of solar panels and triple glazed windows, among other things, have been higher than less green alternatives since their debut. But that difference in price when buying green materials is actually starting to decrease, and eco-friendly construction projects are quickly approaching parity with traditional projects that don’t focus on green materials at all.

In 2011 alone, the up-front cost of solar panel installations dropped as much as 50 percent worldwide, making this technology more affordable than ever. Compounding that decrease in price is legislation that gives both businesses and individuals a tax credit for installing green technologies at a business or a home. This was originally intended to benefit the economy alone, but has resulted in much more construction benefitting the environment. That’s the kind of double-pronged effect that many environmentalists have been waiting for over the course of the past several decade, and it’s heartening to see such a change finally make its way to the marketplace.

Continued Tax Breaks the Key to Widespread Adoption of Net Zero Construction

The tax breaks passed by the U.S. government to encourage the construction of green buildings are set to expire in 2012 and 2013, calling into question just how sustainable the enthusiasm for green products will be. The key to ensuring long-term adoption of solar energy and eco-friendly construction materials, in the eyes of many industry professionals, is to extend these tax breaks for a few more years in order to continue reducing up-front investment costs. Eventually, the tax breaks will equal out with the downward trend in up-front costs, and the tax breaks can be safely ended without a negative impact on green construction.

In the meantime, the U.S. looks to continue its strong eco-friendly building trend, benefitting green industries, construction professionals, and the domestic economy at large.

Image credit:AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Darwin Bell



Chris Keenan

is a green and general blog writer. He also maintains a personal cooking blog.