Net Zero Energy (NZE) is currently one of the most exciting concepts in green building. Buildings with the zero energy distinction seamlessly combine renewable energy sources with energy efficiency to create a building that generates as much energy as it utilizes over a set time period. Does that sound ambitious? It is! Through an integrative design process, the ambitious can quickly become achievable.
One of the distinctions available for green buildings with Net Zero Energy is LEED Zero. This program is a complement to the existing LEED certification program for those buildings that are already certified. If you are preparing for the LEED certification process, remember that you are reimagining what a building can be and how your business could signal to the community that you care about the future. Why wouldn’t you shoot for the stars, or at least LEED Zero?
Will Net Zero Energy Cost More?
One of the most interesting resources published by the US Department of Energy demonstrates that high-performance NZE design is possible on budgets similar to those of traditionally-constructed buildings. What are some of the strategies that can lower costs and ensure NZE?
- Assemble a qualified project team including the contractor. Use of experienced subcontractors early in the design process can help to ensure that your cost guidelines are being met.
- Utilize performance-based procurement to strike a balance between budget, energy savings and other benefits.
- Consider cost shifting. Money spent on energy efficiency measures can be saved in the reduced size and capacity of the mechanical systems.
- Consider life cycle cost impacts when designing.
- Maximize the usage of repeatable, modular design strategies during the design phase.
- Investigate local incentives (utility and tax rebates) and alternative financing options for higher-cost construction projects.
Understanding LEED Zero: Energy
The LEED Zero program for energy efficiency is designed to celebrate spaces that have a source energy use balance of zero over a 12-month period. Beyond this aspect of the Zero program, you could also be recognized for Zero Carbon (operating with net zero carbon emissions from energy consumption and occupant transportation to carbon emissions offset over 12 months), Zero Water (potable water use balance of zero over 12 months) or Zero Waste (achieving the Platinum level of certification through GCBI’s True Zero Waste program).
Doo Consulting’s Net Zero Energy Projects
Our team has been fortunate enough to assist with numerous Net Zero Energy projects in our community. We are currently working with two Baltimore City Public Schools, Graceland Park and Holabird Academy, that will be the flagship NZE schools for the City. In this project, we are auditing the LEED process on behalf of the owner. At the same time, we are creating compelling stories for the students and the greater school community that showcase the energy efficiency strategies used to achieve net zero. Watch for these!