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Zero Net Energy Buildings Gain Ground

January 16, 2014 By William Opalka

NBICommercial zero net energy (ZNE) buildings have more than doubled in number since a 2012 report, says the New Buildings Institute (NBI).  A new report, 2014 Getting to Zero Status Update, says that 213 North American structures qualify, up from 99 in the initial report.

ZNE verification of buildings is based on review of one-year of measured energy data including building energy consumption and renewable energy production, or other valid documentation from a third-party entity.

NBI tracks the development of ZNE buildings in North America throughout the year. NBI had identified and verified 33 ZNE projects including 32 buildings and one district (a group of buildings), an additional 127 projects that were working toward ZNE but did not have a full year of energy use yet to verify net-zero, and 53 buildings that had verified high levels of efficiency comparable to zero net energy performance, but without sufficient onsite renewable generation, for a grand total of 213 buildings.

Key report findings include:

  • ZNE is achievable in all regions and climate zones: ZNE buildings exist in 36 states and two Canadian provinces covering all eight U.S. Department of Energy climate zones.
  • ZNE works for many building types and sizes: More than 25% of the ZNE and ZNE emerging buildings referenced in this report are larger than 50,000 sq. ft., and half of those are over 100,000 sq. ft.
  • ZNE districts are a growing trend: In addition to individual buildings, there is a new trend of communities and campuses committed to groups of ZNE buildings to leverage resources.
  • Private sector increase in ZNE development: 26% of the verified ZNE and ZNE emerging buildings on this year’s list were privately developed.
  • ZNE is achievable in existing buildings: 24% of the verified ZNE buildings in the report were renovation projects, demonstrating the potential for ZNE during major building renewals and expanding the potential floor space for ZNE well beyond just new construction in North America.


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