The number of zero-net energy (ZNE) commercial buildings in the United States doubled between 2014 and 2017, according to newbuildings.org.
As facilityexecutive.com points out, the growth is due primarily to industry leadership, technology market evolution, construction workforce development, policies, and consumer awareness. Also helping the cause is the basic fact that ZNE buildings are simply more efficient, meaning less operational and energy costs for the owner. They also provide healthier environments for the occupants.
Global corporations — and more specifically their real estate departments — are increasingly focused on achieving a state of ZNE. A January 2017 report from CoreNet Global outlined strategies to achieve those reductions, which usually fall into three main buckets:
- Energy efficiency, including retrofitting buildings with LED lights, improved water filtration systems and heating/cooling; as well as constructing buildings with more efficient systems in place.
- Renewable energy sources on-site.
- Off-site renewable energy purchasing, such as purchasing of renewable energy credits (RECs), or creation of power purchase agreements by which firms contract to buy energy from a wind or solar farm.
California is the leading state when it comes to constructing buildings that generate as much — or more — energy than they use. The New Buildings Institute shows there are currently 18 verified ZNE buildings in the state. Florida is a distant second with five.
Other factors contributing to the increase in construction of ZNE buildings include legislative action, the drop in cost of energy efficient systems and software, and the public’s desire for more environmentally-friendly buildings.
A ZNE building creates roughly the same amount, or more, of renewable energy than it uses.