Amid growing concerns about rising energy prices, energy independence, and the impact of climate change, statistics show buildings to be the primary energy consumer in the U.S. This fact underscores the importance of targeting building energy use as a key to decreasing the nation’s energy consumption. The building sector can significantly reduce energy use by incorporating energy-efficient strategies into the design, construction, and operation of new buildings and undertaking retrofits to improve the efficiency of existing buildings. It can further reduce dependence on fossil fuel derived energy by increasing use of on-site and off-site renewable energy sources.
- What is a zero energy building?
Zero energy buildings combine energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources over a specified time period. Achieving zero energy is an ambitious yet increasingly achievable goal that is gaining momentum across geographic regions and markets.
- ZEB Energy Generation
ZEBs need to produce their own energy on site to meet their electricity and heating or cooling needs. Various microgeneration technologies may be used to provide heat and electricity to the building, including the following:
- Wind (wind turbines)
- Biomass (heaters and stoves, boilers, and community heating schemes)
- Combined heat and power (CHP) and micro-CHP with natural gas, biomass, sewage gas and other biogases.
- Community heating (including utilizing waste heat from large scale power generation)
- Heat pumps (air source [ASHP] and ground source [GSHP] and geothermal heating systems)
- Water (small-scale hydropower)
- Other (including fuel cells using hydrogen generated from any of the above renewable sources)
Many homebuilders have serious concerns about whether microgeneration and renewable energy technologies can deliver the energy generation requirements to produce adequate working, cost-effective ZEBs. Builders fear that owners and occupiers may not accept the required new technologies and could choose to retrofit energy-intensive appliances and systems, which would ultimately undermine the zero-energy objectives. There are further concerns that failure to maintain the new systems and technologies adequately may expose owners and occupiers to health and safety risks.
Net Zero Energy Building principles can be applied to most types of projects, including residential, industrial, and commercial buildings in both new construction and existing buildings. A growing number of projects have been designed and constructed across the various market sectors and climate zones. Several links to DOE’s Commercial project resources are provided below, including:
- Commercial Buildings Integration Program
- Commercial Buildings Partnerships
- Better Buildings Alliances
- High-Performance Buildings Database
- Zero Energy Buildings
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