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Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS A NET ZERO BUILDING?
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) defines a zero energy ready home as “a high performance home which is so energy efficient, that a renewable energy system can offset all or most of its annual energy consumption.” DOE zero energy ready homes are designed to meet high performance standards so that they live better, work better and last longer than code built homes.
HOW EFFICIENT ARE TYPICAL ZNE OR ZNE-CAPABLE BUILDINGS?
Energy efficiency should be the first and largest step toward ZNE. The exact targets vary by building type and climate, but generally buildings should use about one-third of the energy of typical existing commercial buildings–about 30 kBtus or less per square foot. The best examples are closer to 20 kBtus per square foot. Generally, for single-family residential buildings the energy use intensity (EUI) for ZNE performance is typically between 11-17kBtus per square foot.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO MAKE BUILDINGS ZNE?
Energy efficiency improvements in design and operations substantially reduce the costs and environmental impacts associated with buildings. The energy used in buildings is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. ZNE buildings are an important strategy to help reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a requirement of Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Withrising energy costs, and increasing climate-related impacts and natural disasters, ZNE buildings help reduce ourdemand for energy and provide more resilience to climate impacts.
WHAT ARE THE ADDITIONAL COSTS TO BUILD FOR ZNE PERFORMANCE?
There are examples of commercial buildings achieving ZNE (or near ZNE) at little or no additional cost. Low-cost examples are usually due to trade-offs made by the project team during the integrated design process. Several studies have found the incremental cost of ZNE buildings to be in the range of 0-15% more than conventional construction costs. This incremental cost is for design and construction only, and does not consider the life-cycle cost savings of lower energy costs to operate the building over time. The resale value of a ZNE building could be between 10 and 30% more than a standard one.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF ZNE BUILDINGS?
ZNE buildings and homes are higher performing, offering superior comfort and healthier places to work and live. Because ZNE buildings use passive strategies such as natural ventilation and daylighting, they are more resilient to the impacts of climate change and are also less vulnerable to the instability of energy prices.
WHAT IF I HAVE LIMITED SPACE ONSITE FOR RENEWABLES?
Even on the most energy efficient buildings, limited rooftop space on high- rise structures and shading from adjacent buildings means that ZNE buildings with solar photovoltaics (PVs) onsite may not be practical at this time in urban cores. In the future, new and emerging building-integrated PV products offer an innovative solution that could help address limitations of roof space for siting renewable generation. Alternatively, another class of ZNE may allow these buildings to achieve zero status. ZNE Capable refers to buildings that are as energy efficient as ZNE buildings but don’t have PV onsite. These buildings could access renewable generation from a community-scale project located elsewhere or purchase renewable energyfrom the local utility