Reinventing Existing Buildings: Eight Steps to Net Zero EnergyInstitute for Building Efficiency, May 21, 2013
Net zero energy describes buildings whose energy consumption and emissions are fully offset by renewable energy, preferably generated on site. True to their net zero name, they generate as much or more clean energy as they consume. Once considered an outlandish, far-reaching, expensive goal only available to the technically advanced, net zero buildings are now well within the realm of possibility. A study by the national Renewable energy laboratory found that there is the technical potential for over 47 percent of existing commercial building floor space to achieve net zero energy using currently known technologies and design processes.
Whether focused on new construction or – in this case – existing buildings, designing a net zero energy building involves two fundamental steps: first maximize energy efficiency to minimize the building’s demand, then explore renewable energy generation to cover remaining energy needs. To make net zero technically possible and cost-effective, a building needs to reduce typical energy use by well over 50 percent.