Net Positive is the new black – but what is the return on investment?

Ralph DiNola works for the nonprofit New Buildings Institute “working to improve the energy performance of commercial buildings.” He recently presented at a conference focused on Net Positive Energy + Water in San Fransisco. During the conference, one of the major themes was cost and value associated with such high performing buildings.

What does this project cost? What does it include; land, entitlements? Are we talking first costs, or life-cycle costs? One of the participants stated that it is always ambiguous what people mean by “cost”.

It was very clear to us that the next step in ZNE is to build consensus around what we mean when we say, “What does this project cost?” It might sound over-simplistic to say we shouldn’t only be talking about cost, we should be talking about value, which also means different things to different groups, like developers versus owner occupants.

When you look at individual projects and consider the thousands of decisions that go into designs, renovations and retrofits, you realize you can spend a lot or less on a green building, just as you can with non-green construction. Davis Langdon studies and the soon-to-be-released Integral study on the cost of ZNE buildings support that assertion.

Source: New Buildings Institute

Last year, the San Diego Green Building Council hosted a conference on Net Zero Energy + Water that I was able to attend part of. (I wrote an article about one of the sessions: 8 Simple Steps to Achieving Net Zero Energy.) Cost and return on investment were also major themes at the San Diego conference.

As DiNola mentions, and as we heard in San Diego, there are at least two different groups conducting extensive research and are expected to release reports soon with deep analysis of various economic factors associated with ultra-high performance buildings. I’ll let you know as soon as that research comes out.

Also worth noting: According to DiNola’s article, Navigant projects that the market for net zero (or better) projects will reach $1.3-trillion by 2035. (No, that isn’t a typo – that is trillion with a “T”.)

If you will be in the San Diego region next week, SDGBC president Beth Brummitt will be at the LEED Double Platinum Energy Innovation Center presenting a course called Zero Net Energy Now: Why, Who and How.

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