As we move towards a future where sustainability and rising energy prices play an increasingly important role in the design, development and construction of our built environment, the concept of Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) is gaining momentum in the architectural industry. Buildings are the most significant consumer of energy, totalling up to 40% worldwide. By incorporating energy efficient design strategies from the outset, the building sector can significantly reduce energy use. This applies not only to new builds as improved efficiency is also possible with retrofits to existing buildings.
What is a Net Zero Energy Building?
The concept is simple: a net zero-energy building is a structure with significantly reduced energy needs producing as much energy as it consumes. Yet this is no easy feat. These types of buildings require that attention be paid to the way the space is built to ensure energy consumption is minimized, and systems must be designed so that the building also produces energy.
How can NZEB be realized?
NZEB is accomplished by incorporating energy saving strategies with passive and active energy production designs and technologies. The site-specific design will respond to its location, regional climate and intended use. In order to realize savings in energy costs, time needs to be dedicated to analyzing the interactions of building systems and to life cycle cost analyses of potential efficiency upgrades.
Effective NZEB projects require thinking about design in a different way. Maximizing the use of passive resources, such as natural daylight and ventilation, will aid in making buildings more efficient. Active renewable resources such as wind and solar energy can be captured and used to replace the energy used by the building. Make-up for the remaining energy consumption can be offset by reducing waste, maximizing efficiency, and by integrating energy management control systems. In turn, these spaces become healthier, more satisfying spaces in which to live, work, or play.
The Benefits of Net Zero Energy Building
There are numerous benefits and advantages to NZEB. At first, design and construction may seem more costly, but there is long-term return on initial investment. Here just a sampling of the benefits:
1) It creates value: this happens through multiple avenues: NZEB can improve or maintain your competitive advantage, improve the value of the property, mitigate market risk, and promote the health and wellbeing of occupants.
2) Saves money: NZEBs are 60-90% over energy efficiency baselines. A project will save money over the entire life cycle of its equipment, and in energy and maintenance costs.
3) It is educational: Anyone involved during the design, construction, operations or maintenance timelines serves to gain valuable knowledge and understanding about net zero-energy and energy efficiencies. Even those who use the facility are able to make connections, and learn to limit their personal energy use.
4) Reduces greenhouse gases: Limiting or freeing buildings from their dependence on fossil fuels, we a creating a more resilient future. It benefits our children, the world and us.