Why construct a building that uses less energy when we can make one that uses no energy at all?
That’s the philosophy behind “net-zero” buildings, and they have been springing up all over the country in recent years. By the purest definition, a net-zero building produces all the renewable energy it needs on site, drawing no more power from the grid than it gives back.
Considering that a shack in the woods is technically net zero, the concept isn’t exactly new. But advances in technology over the past decade have made it easier to design sophisticated buildings that produce 100 percent of their own energy. At least 21 commercial buildings in the United States meet net-zero standards, according to a study released yesterday by the New Buildings Institute and the Zero Energy Commercial Building Consortium.
I’m fortunate enough to be able to make use of a net zero building at least once a month – the headquarters of San Diego chapter of the USGBC is located in DPR’s office building, which generates more electricity than it uses. Scientific American has an overview of net zero buildings: