Net Zero Energy (NZE) buildings represent a promising step towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future. Simply put, NZE buildings are designed to produce as much energy as they consume, resulting in a net energy balance of zero. Certified net zero buildings are highly efficient and coupled with renewable energy that achieve operational energy use of zero over the course of a year and offer a variety of benefits including:
- Reduced monthly energy costs
- Reduced carbon footprint
- Healthier living
- Tax incentives to build
A successful NZE project prioritizes efficiency before adding alternative energy sources to generate the needed energy. To maintain Net Zero Energy, a project needs to be operated and maintained with that goal in mind. Designers and engineers consider multiple aspects when determining the best path for a building to achieve NZE, such as:
- Efficient thermal envelope
- Minimal air infiltration
- High efficiency mechanical systems with energy recovery
- Solar optimization and daylighting
- LED lighting and control sensors
- Natural ventilation
- Photovoltaic arrays
While most often associated with NZE, the term “net zero” can also apply to other aspects of sustainable design and construction.
- Net Zero Waste: A strategic and operational approach to reduce, reuse, and recycle to minimize waste sent to landfills.
- Net Zero Carbon: 100% of the operational energy embodied carbon impacts associated with the construction & materials of the project must be disclosed and offset.
- Net Zero Water: Preserving the quality and quantity of natural water resources, which means water used = water returned. A combination of freshwater, rainwater and water reuse is used and treated on site before it is returned to the source to mimic natural hydrology.
Together with other sustainable building practices, NZE represents a pivotal solution in our collective pursuit of a sustainable future. When project goals include net zero energy, waste, carbon, and water from inception, we can prove that it is possible to create environmentally responsible buildings that are also economically viable over the long term by significantly reducing energy costs. As we continue to address the impacts of climate change and seek energy independence, NZE buildings offer a powerful example of how to build a greener and more sustainable future for all.