The number of net zero commercial buildings under construction in the U.S. and Canada in 2017 rose by nearly 50% over the previous year.
Though the total number of “emerging” net zero buildings, 279, is small, observers say interest in pursuing these projects has never been stronger and is growing quickly. “Zero energy” refers to buildings that generate at least 100% of their own power from renewable sources that are either onsite or built specifically for the project.
Sixty-seven commercial buildings have now been “verified” in the U.S. and Canada, according to a recent report from the New Buildings Institute. Steep drops in the cost of solar panels and improvements in their performance have been a key driver of the trend.
More economical PVs have prompted some owners to reach for net zero when they previously had seen that goal as cost-prohibitive. Codes and incentives are also influencing the growth of net zero buildings. More than half the emerging net zero buildings are in California, which has a stringent energy code and a mandate for all new state buildings to be designed for zero energy performance by 2020.