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Net-Zero Energy Building

Net-Zero Building Ashley Halligan, an analyst at Software Advice, asks whether or not net zero is a realistic expectation in Breaking Down Net Zero: Reality or Wishful Thinking? By 2050, all commercial buildings must become net-zero.  By 2030, all federal facilities must be net-zero.  These ambitious targets were set by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. So… what does net-zero mean? Also known as NZEB (Net-Zero Energy Building), net-zero building aims to match energy consumption with on-site production.  Though there are multiple definitions floating around, for our purposes “net-zero” refers to a building that produces the same amount of energy as it consumes in a year, flattening out the the building’s net consumption to carbon-neutral. How is this “net-zero” status achieved? There are essentially two basic methods of creating a net-zero building: retrofitting and ground-up initiatives.  The first step for either choice is to plan to minimize the building’s overall energy consumption.  For ground-up initiaves, this is handled in the planning process; retrofitting projects should make most changes ahead of time. Before modifying the building or adding on-site renewable energy systems to existing infrastructure, some basic measures can be taken to reduce the amount of energy needed to run the facility.  This can be as simple as using LED lights, such as DirectLED Flourescent Replacement Tubes, or exchanging an old refrigerator for a Steca PF166.  When you’re shopping for appliances, you should always look for the Energy Star label.  Also, setting your programmable thermostat down a smidgen can notably reduce energy consumption.  Explore solar thermal heating and set the water temperature to a max of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Because heating, cooling, and ventilation accounts for about 30% of overall energy consumption in commercial buildings, it is wise to consider upgrading aged HVAC systems to newer Energy Star HVAC systems.  Furthermore, setting the temperature to 69 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer can make a noticeable difference. As new infrastructure is developed, energy efficient design techniques will be implemented to reduce the amount of energy used in heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, etc. Passive solar design maximizes use of the sun’s light with features like south facing windows and strategic shading to illuminate rooms during the day without too much heat, reducing the need for artificial light and HVAC systems.  Many buildings were not originally designed to make use of passive solar technology, which can pose a series of obstacles while retrofitting a building.  Constructing net-zero buildings from scratch has its advantages in this area. Whether retrofitting or constructing buildings with net-zero in mind, it is imperative that building contractors, property owners, and CEOs collaborate...

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