Zero-energy commercial buildings are both feasible and affordable, and they are appearing all across the U.S., according to a report from the New Buildings Institute (NBI) and the Zero Energy Commercial Building Consortium (CBC). The report, Getting to Zero 2012 Status Update: A First Look at the Cost and Features of Zero Energy Commercial Buildings, defines zero-energy buildings as highly efficient structures that produce as much energy as they use through on-site renewable resources. The cost premiums for ZEB energy efficiency features in the projects studied ranged from 3% to 18%, depending on building type, size, climate and other variables.
The report identifies 99 existing and under-construction buildings that are either zero energy or zero energy-capable. With the exception of two facilities completed in 2010, all ZEBs were less than 15,000 sf, and half are less than 5,000 sf. A notable finding was that unique or experimental systems are infrequently used to reach net-zero goals. Most ZEBs are built using readily available technology.
An integrated design approach with careful attention to building site and layout, envelope, mechanical systems, and electrical systems helps to achieve the highest level of energy efficiency, the report said. On-site generation with solar PV panels is another common denominator.
NOTE:This information is the opinion of the author/blogger and not the official position of IAPMO.