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ZERO ENERGY BUILDING
ORANGE COUNTY

Zero-energy test building in Tallinn, Estonia. Tallinn University of Technology.

A zero-energy building, also known as a zero net energy (ZNE) building, net-zero energy building (NZEB), or net zero building, is a building with zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site, or in other definitions by renewable energy sources elsewhere. These buildings consequently contribute less overall greenhouse gas to the atmosphere than similar non-ZNE buildings. They do at times consume non-renewable energy and produce greenhouse gases, but at other times reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas production elsewhere by the same amount.

Most zero net energy buildings get half or more of their energy from the grid, and return the same amount at other times. Buildings that produce a surplus of energy over the year may be called "energy-plus buildings" and buildings that consume slightly more energy than they produce are called "near-zero energy buildings" or "ultra-low energy houses".

Traditional buildings consume 40% of the total fossil fuel energy in the US and European Union and are significant contributors of greenhouse gases. The zero net energy consumption principle is viewed as a means to reduce carbon emissions and reduce dependence on fossil fuels and although zero-energy buildings remain uncommon even in developed countries, they are gaining importance and popularity.

Most zero-energy buildings use the electrical grid for energy storage but some are independent of the grid. Energy is usually harvested on-site through energy producing technologies like solar and wind, while reducing the overall use of energy with highly efficient HVAC and lighting technologies. The zero-energy goal is becoming more practical as the costs of alternative energy technologies decrease and the costs of traditional fossil fuels increase.

The development of modern zero-energy buildings became possible not only through the progress made in new energy and construction technologies and techniques, but it has also been significantly improved by academic research, which collects precise energy performance data on traditional and experimental buildings and provides performance parameters for advanced computer models to predict the efficacy of engineering designs. Zero-energy buildings can be part of a smart grid. Some advantages of these buildings are as follows:

  • Integration of renewable energy resources
  • Integration of plug-in electric vehicles
  • Implementation of zero-energy concepts

The net zero concept is applicable to a wide range of resources due to the many options for producing and conserving resources in buildings (e.g. energy, water, waste). Energy is the first resource to be targeted because it is highly managed, expected to continually become more efficient, and the ability to distribute and allocate it will improve disaster resiliency.

Definitions

Despite sharing the name "zero net energy", there are several definitions of what the term means in practice, with a particular difference in usage between North America and Europe.

Zero net site energy use
In this type of ZNE, the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable energy sources is equal to the amount of energy used by the building. In the United States, “zero net energy building” generally refers to this type of building.
Zero net source energy use
This ZNE generates the same amount of energy as is used, including the energy used to transport the energy to the building. This type accounts for losses during electricity transmission. These ZNEs must generate more electricity than zero net site energy buildings.
Net zero energy emissions
Outside the United States and Canada, a ZEB is generally defined as one with zero net energy emissions, also known as a zero carbon building or zero emissions building. Under this definition the carbon emissions generated from on-site or off-site fossil fuel use are balanced by the amount of on-site renewable energy production. Other definitions include not only the carbon emissions generated by the building in use, but also those generated in the construction of the building and the embodied energy of the structure. Others debate whether the carbon emissions of commuting to and from the building should also be included in the calculation.Recent work in New Zealand has initiated an approach to include building user transport energy within zero energy building frameworks.
Net zero cost
In this type of building, the cost of purchasing energy is balanced by income from sales of electricity to the grid of electricity generated on-site. Such a status depends on how a utility credits net electricity generation and the utility rate structure the building uses.
Net off-site zero energy use
A building may be considered a ZEB if 100% of the energy it purchases comes from renewable energy sources, even if the energy is generated off the site.
Off-the-grid
Off-the-grid buildings are stand-alone ZEBs that are not connected to an off-site energy utility facility. They require distributed renewable energy generation and energy storage capability (for when the sun is not shining, wind is not blowing, etc.). An energy autarkic house is a building concept where the balance of the own energy consumption and production can be made on an hourly or even smaller basis. Energy autarkic houses can be taken off-the-grid.
Net zero-energy building
Based on scientific analysis within the joint research program “Towards Net Zero Energy Solar Buildings” a methodological framework was set up which allows different definitions, in accordance with country’s political targets, specific (climate) conditions and respectively formulated requirements for indoor conditions: The overall conceptual understanding of a Net ZEB is an energy efficient, grid connected building enabled to generate energy from renewable sources to compensate its own energy demand (see figure 1
Figure 1: The Net ZEB balance concept: balance of weighted energy import respectively energy demand (x-axis) and energy export (feed-in credits) respectively (on-site) generation (y-axis)
).
The wording “Net” emphasizes the energy exchange between the building and the energy infrastructure. By the building-grid interaction, the Net ZEBs becomes an active part of the renewable energy infrastructure. This connection to energy grids prevents seasonal energy storage and oversized on-site systems for energy generation from renewable sources like in energy autonomous buildings. The similarity of both concepts is a pathway of two actions: 1) reduce energy demand by means of energy efficiency measures and passive energy use; 2) generate energy from renewable sources. However, the Net ZEBs grid interaction and plans to widely increase their numbers evoke considerations on increased flexibility in the shift of energy loads and reduced peak demands.
Within this balance procedure several aspects and explicit choices have to be determined:
  • The building system boundary is split into a physical boundary which determines which renewable resources are considered (e.g. in buildings footprint, on-site or even off-site, see) respectively how many buildings are included in the balance (single building, cluster of buildings) and a balance boundary which determines the included energy uses (e.g. heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water, lighting, appliances, IT, central services, electric vehicles, and embodied energy, etc.). It should be noticed that renewable energy supply options can be prioritized (e.g. by transportation or conversion effort, availability over the lifetime of the building or replication potential for future, etc.) and therefore create a hierarchy. It may be argued that resources within the building footprint or on-site should be given priority over off-site supply options.
  • The weighting system converts the physical units of different energy carriers into a uniform metric (site/final energy, source/primary energy renewable parts included or not, energy cost, equivalent carbon emissions and even energy or environmental credits) and allows their comparison and compensation among each other in one single balance (e.g. exported PV electricity can compensate imported biomass). Politically influenced and therefore possibly asymmetrically or time dependent conversion/weighting factors can affect the relative value of energy carriers and can influence the required energy generation capacity.
  • The balancing period is often assumed to be one year (suitable to cover all operation energy uses). A shorter period (monthly or seasonal) could also be considered as well as a balance over the entire life cycle (including embodied energy, which could also be annualized and counted in addition to operational energy uses).
  • The energy balance can be done in two balance types: 1) Balance of delivered/imported and exported energy (monitoring phase as self-consumption of energy generated on-site can be included); 2) Balance between (weighted) energy demand and (weighted) energy generation (for design phase as normally end users temporal consumption patterns -e.g. for lighting, appliances, etc.- are lacking). Alternatively a balance based on monthly net values in which only residuals per month are summed up to an annual balance is imaginable. This can be seen either as a load/generation balance or as a special case of import/export balance where a “virtual monthly self-consumption” is assumed (see figure 2
    Figure 2: The Net ZEB balance concept: Graphical representation of the different types of balance: import/export balance between weighted exported and delivered energy, load/generation balance between weighted generation and load, and monthly net balance between weighted monthly net values of generation and load
    and compare).
  • Beside the energy balance, Net ZEBs can be characterized by their ability to match the building's load by its energy generation (load matching) or to work beneficially with respect to the needs of the local grid infrastructure (grind interaction). Both can be expressed by suitable indicators which are intended as assessment tools only.

The information is based on the publications, and in which deeper information could be found.

Design and construction

The most cost-effective steps toward a reduction in a building's energy consumption usually occur during the design process. To achieve efficient energy use, zero energy design departs significantly from conventional construction practice. Successful zero energy building designers typically combine time tested passive solar, or artificial conditioning, principles that work with the on-site assets. Sunlight and solar heat, prevailing breezes, and the cool of the earth below a building, can provide daylighting and stable indoor temperatures with minimum mechanical means. ZEBs are normally optimized to use passive solar heat gain and shading, combined with thermal mass to stabilize diurnal temperature variations throughout the day, and in most climates are superinsulated. All the technologies needed to create zero energy buildings are available off-the-shelf today.

Sophisticated 3-D building energy simulation tools are available to model how a building will perform with a range of design variables such as building orientation (relative to the daily and seasonal position of the sun), window and door type and placement, overhang depth, insulation type and values of the building elements, air tightness (weatherization), the efficiency of heating, cooling, lighting and other equipment, as well as local climate. These simulations help the designers predict how the building will perform before it is built, and enable them to model the economic and financial implications on building cost benefit analysis, or even more appropriate – life cycle assessment.

Zero-energy buildings are built with significant energy-saving features. The heating and cooling loads are lowered by using high-efficiency equipment, added insulation, high-efficiency windows, natural ventilation, and other techniques. These features vary depending on climate zones in which the construction occurs. Water heating loads can be lowered by using water conservation fixtures, heat recovery units on waste water, and by using solar water heating, and high-efficiency water heating equipment. In addition, daylighting with skylights or solartubes can provide 100% of daytime illumination within the home. Nighttime illumination is typically done with fluorescent and LED lighting that use 1/3 or less power than incandescent lights, without adding unwanted heat. And miscellaneous electric loads can be lessened by choosing efficient appliances and minimizing phantom loads or standby power. Other techniques to reach net zero (dependent on climate) are Earth sheltered building principles, superinsulation walls using straw-bale construction, Vitruvianbuilt pre-fabricated building panels and roof elements plus exterior landscaping for seasonal shading.

Zero-energy buildings are often designed to make dual use of energy including white goods; for example, using refrigerator exhaust to heat domestic water, ventilation air and shower drain heat exchangers, office machines and computer servers, and body heat to heat the building. These buildings make use of heat energy that conventional buildings may exhaust outside. They may use heat recovery ventilation, hot water heat recycling, combined heat and power, and absorption chiller units.[citation needed]

Energy harvest

ZEBs harvest available energy to meet their electricity and heating or cooling needs. In the case of individual houses, various microgeneration technologies may be used to provide heat and electricity to the building, using solar cells or wind turbines for electricity, and biofuels or solar thermal collectors linked to a seasonal thermal energy storage (STES) for space heating. An STES can also be used for summer cooling by storing the cold of winter underground. To cope with fluctuations in demand, zero energy buildings are frequently connected to the electricity grid, export electricity to the grid when there is a surplus, and drawing electricity when not enough electricity is being produced. Other buildings may be fully autonomous.

Energy harvesting is most often more effective (in cost and resource utilization) when done on a local but combined scale, for example, a group of houses, cohousing, local district, village, etc. rather than an individual basis. An energy benefit of such localized energy harvesting is the virtual elimination of electrical transmission and electricity distribution losses. These losses amount to about 7.2%–7.4% of the energy transferred. Energy harvesting in commercial and industrial applications should benefit from the topography of each location. The production of goods under net zero fossil energy consumption requires locations of geothermal, microhydro, solar, and wind resources to sustain the concept.

Zero-energy neighborhoods, such as the BedZED development in the United Kingdom, and those that are spreading rapidly in California and China, may use distributed generation schemes. This may in some cases include district heating, community chilled water, shared wind turbines, etc. There are current plans to use ZEB technologies to build entire off-the-grid or net zero energy use cities.

The "energy harvest" versus "energy conservation" debate

One of the key areas of debate in zero energy building design is over the balance between energy conservation and the distributed point-of-use harvesting of renewable energy (solar energy, wind energy and thermal energy). Most zero energy homes use a combination of these strategies.[citation needed]

As a result of significant government subsidies for photovoltaic solar electric systems, wind turbines, etc., there are those who suggest that a ZEB is a conventional house with distributed renewable energy harvesting technologies. Entire additions of such homes have appeared in locations where photovoltaic (PV) subsidies are significant, but many so called "Zero Energy Homes" still have utility bills. This type of energy harvesting without added energy conservation may not be cost effective with the current price of electricity generated with photovoltaic equipment (depending on the local price of power company electricity), and may also requires greater embodied energy and greater resources so be thus the less ecological approach.[citation needed]

Since the 1980s, passive solar building design and passive house have demonstrated heating energy consumption reductions of 70% to 90% in many locations, without active energy harvesting. For new builds, and with expert design, this can be accomplished with little additional construction cost for materials over a conventional building. Very few industry experts have the skills or experience to fully capture benefits of the passive design. Such passive solar designs are much more cost-effective than adding expensive photovoltaic panels on the roof of a conventional inefficient building. A few kilowatt-hours of photovoltaic panels (costing 2 to 3 dollars per annual kWh production, U.S. dollar equivalent) may only reduce external energy requirements by 15% to 30%. A 100,000 BTU (110 MJ) high seasonal energy efficiency ratio 14 conventional air conditioner requires over 7 kW of photovoltaic electricity while it is operating, and that does not include enough for off-the-grid night-time operation. Passive cooling, and superior system engineering techniques, can reduce the air conditioning requirement by 70% to 90%. Photovoltaic-generated electricity becomes more cost-effective when the overall demand for electricity is lower.

Occupant behavior

The energy used in a building can vary greatly depending on the behavior of its occupants. The acceptance of what is considered comfortable varies widely. Studies of identical homes in the United States have shown dramatic differences in energy use, with some homes using more than twice the energy of others. Occupant behavior can vary from differences in setting and programming thermostats, varying levels of illumination and hot water, and the amount of miscellaneous electric devices or plug loads used.

Utility Concerns

Utility companies are typically legally responsible for maintaining the electrical infrastructure that brings power to our cities, neighborhoods, and individual buildings. Utility companies typically own this infrastructure up to the property line of an individual parcel, and in some cases own electrical infrastructure on private land as well. Utilities have expressed concern that the use of Net Metering for ZNE projects threatens the Utilities base revenue, which in turn impacts their ability to maintain and service the portion of the electrical grid that they are responsible for. Utilities have expressed concern that states that maintain Net Metering laws may saddle non-ZNE homes with higher utility costs, as those homeowners would be responsible for paying for grid maintenance while ZNE home owners would theoretically pay nothing if they do achieve ZNE status. This creates potential equity issues, as currently, the burden would appear to fall on lower-income households. A possible solution to this issue is to create a minimum base charge for all homes connected to the utility grid, which would force ZNE home owners to pay for grid services independently of their electrical use.

Additional concerns exist that local distribution as well as larger transmission grids have not been designed to convey electricity in two directions, which may be necessary as higher levels of distributed energy generation come on line. Overcoming this barrier could require extensive upgrades to the electrical grid, however this is not believed to be a major problem until renewable generation reaches much higher levels of penetration than currently realized.

Development efforts

Wide acceptance of zero-energy building technology may require more government incentives or building code regulations, the development of recognized standards, or significant increases in the cost of conventional energy.[citation needed]

The Google photovoltaic campus and the Microsoft 480-kilowatt photovoltaic campus relied on U.S. Federal, and especially California, subsidies and financial incentives. California is now providing US$3.2 billion in subsidies for residential-and-commercial near-zero-energy buildings, due to California's serious electricity shortage, frequent power outages, and air pollution problems. The details of other American states' renewable energy subsidies (up to US$5.00 per watt) can be found in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. The Florida Solar Energy Center has a slide presentation on recent progress in this area.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has launched a major initiative to support the development of ZEB. Led by the CEO of United Technologies and the Chairman of Lafarge, the organization has both the support of large global companies and the expertise to mobilize the corporate world and governmental support to make ZEB a reality. Their first report, a survey of key players in real estate and construction, indicates that the costs of building green are overestimated by 300 percent. Survey respondents estimated that greenhouse gas emissions by buildings are 19 percent of the worldwide total, in contrast to the actual value of roughly 40 percent.

Influential zero-energy and low-energy buildings

Those who commissioned construction of passive houses and zero-energy homes (over the last three decades) were essential to iterative, incremental, cutting-edge, technology innovations. Much has been learned from many significant successes, and a few expensive failures.

The zero-energy building concept has been a progressive evolution from other low-energy building designs. Among these, the Canadian R-2000 and the German passive house standards have been internationally influential. Collaborative government demonstration projects, such as the superinsulated Saskatchewan House, and the International Energy Agency's Task 13, have also played their part.

Net Zero Energy Building Definition

The US National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) published a groundbreaking report titled Net-Zero Energy Buildings: A Classification System Based on Renewable Energy Supply Options. This is the first report to lay out a full spectrum classification system for Net Zero/Renewable Energy buildings that includes the full spectrum of Clean Energy sources, both on site and off site. This classification system identifies the following 4 main categories of Net Zero Energy Buildings/Sites/Campuses:

  • NZEB:A -- A footprint renewables Net Zero Energy Building
  • NZEB:B -- A site renewables Net Zero Energy Building
  • NZEB:C -- An imported renewables Net Zero Energy Building
  • NZEB:D -- An off-site purchased renewables Net Zero Energy Building

Applying this U.S. Government Net Zero classification system means that every building "can" become Net Zero with the right combination of the key Net Zero Technologies - PV (solar), GHP (geothermal heating and cooling, thermal batteries), EE (energy efficiency), sometimes Wind, and Electric Batteries. A graphical exposé of the scale of impact of applying these NREL guidelines for Net Zero can be seen in the graphic at Net Zero Foundation titled "Net Zero Effect on U.S. Total Energy Use" showing a possible 39% U.S. total fossil fuel use reduction by changing U.S. Residential and Commercial buildings to Net Zero, 37% savings if we still use Nat. Gas for cooking at the same level.

Net Zero Carbon Conversion Example

Many well known universities have professed to want to completely convert their energy systems off of fossil fuels. The very idea that one could convert a whole campus off of fossil fuels has to date only been theoretical. Capitalizing on the continuing developments in both Photovoltaics and Geothermal heat pump technologies, and in the advancing Electric Battery field, complete conversion to a carbon free energy solution is now possible. An example of this is in the Net Zero Foundation's proposal at MIT to take that campus completely off fossil fuel use. This proposal shows the coming application of Net Zero Energy Buildings technologies at the District Energy scale.

Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

  • isolation for building owners from future energy price increases
  • increased comfort due to more-uniform interior temperatures (this can be demonstrated with comparative isotherm maps)
  • reduced requirement for energy austerity
  • reduced total cost of ownership due to improved energy efficiency
  • reduced total net monthly cost of living
  • reduced risk of loss from grid blackouts
  • improved reliability – photovoltaic systems have 25-year warranties and seldom fail during weather problems – the 1982 photovoltaic systems on the Walt Disney World EPCOT Energy Pavilion are still working fine today, after going through three recent hurricanes
  • extra cost is minimized for new construction compared to an afterthought retrofit
  • higher resale value as potential owners demand more ZEBs than available supply
  • the value of a ZEB building relative to similar conventional building should increase every time energy costs increase
  • future legislative restrictions, and carbon emission taxes/penalties may force expensive retrofits to inefficient buildings

Disadvantages

  • initial costs can be higher – effort required to understand, apply, and qualify for ZEB subsidies, if they exist.
  • very few designers or builders have the necessary skills or experience to build ZEBs
  • possible declines in future utility company renewable energy costs may lessen the value of capital invested in energy efficiency
  • new photovoltaic solar cells equipment technology price has been falling at roughly 17% per year – It will lessen the value of capital invested in a solar electric generating system – Current subsidies will be phased out as photovoltaic mass production lowers future price
  • challenge to recover higher initial costs on resale of building, but new energy rating systems are being introduced gradually.
  • while the individual house may use an average of net zero energy over a year, it may demand energy at the time when peak demand for the grid occurs. In such a case, the capacity of the grid must still provide electricity to all loads. Therefore, a ZEB may not reduce the required power plant capacity.
  • without an optimised thermal envelope the embodied energy, heating and cooling energy and resource usage is higher than needed. ZEB by definition do not mandate a minimum heating and cooling performance level thus allowing oversized renewable energy systems to fill the energy gap.
  • solar energy capture using the house envelope only works in locations unobstructed from the sun. The solar energy capture cannot be optimized in north (for northern hemisphere, or south for southern Hemisphere) facing shade, or wooded surroundings.

Zero energy building versus green building

The goal of green building and sustainable architecture is to use resources more efficiently and reduce a building's negative impact on the environment. Zero energy buildings achieve one key green-building goal of completely or very significantly reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for the life of the building. Zero energy buildings may or may not be considered "green" in all areas, such as reducing waste, using recycled building materials, etc. However, zero energy, or net-zero buildings do tend to have a much lower ecological impact over the life of the building compared with other "green" buildings that require imported energy and/or fossil fuel to be habitable and meet the needs of occupants.

Because of the design challenges and sensitivity to a site that are required to efficiently meet the energy needs of a building and occupants with renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, etc.), designers must apply holistic design principles, and take advantage of the free naturally occurring assets available, such as passive solar orientation, natural ventilation, daylighting, thermal mass, and night time cooling.

Certification

Many green building certification programs do not require a building to have net zero energy use, only to reduce energy use a few percentage points below the minimum required by law. Green Globes involves check lists that are measurement tools, not design tools. Inexperienced designers or architects may cherry-pick points to meet a target certification level, even though those points may not be the best design choices for a specific building or climate.[citation needed] In November, 2011, the International Living Future Institute developed the Net Zero Energy Building Certification. Designed as part of the Living Building Challenge, Net Zero Energy Building Certification is simple, cost effective and critical for integrity and transparency.

Worldwide

International initiatives

Between 2008 and 2013, researchers from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and USA were working together in the joint research program “Towards Net Zero Energy Solar Buildings” under the umbrella of International Energy Agency (IEA) Solar Heating and Cooling Program (SHC) Task 40 / Energy in Buildings and Communities (EBC, formerly ECBCS) Annex 52 in order to bring the Net ZEB concept to market viability. The joint international research and demonstration activities are divided in subtasks. The objective is to develop a common understanding, a harmonized international applicable definition framework (Subtask A, see definitions methodology “Net Zero Energy Building” above), design process tools (Subtask B), advanced building design and technology solutions and industry guidelines for Net ZEBs (Subtask C). The scope encompasses new and existing residential and non-residential buildings located within the climatic zones of the participating countries.

Belgium

In Belgium there is a project with the ambition to make the Belgian city Leuven climate-neutral in 2030.

Japan

After April 2011 Fukushima earthquake follow up with Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Japan experienced severe power crisis that led to the awareness of importance of energy conservation. In 2012 Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and Ministry of the Environment (Japan) summarized the road map for Low-carbon Society which contains the goal of ZEH and ZEB to be standard of new construction in 2020.

Canada

  • On May 3, 2013, Prime Minister Harper announced funding for ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative projects including a project being led by Owens Corning entitled Integrating Renewables and Conservation Measures in a Net-Zero Energy Low-Rise Residential Subdivision. This demonstration project is aimed at addressing challenges specific to production housing when building to net zero energy performance levels. The buildABILITY Corporation project management team will be working to assess and resolve challenges in relation to site planning, construction, equipment, grid connections, cost, trade capability, warranty, reliability, sales, marketing, and homebuyer information/education. Five home builders across four provinces will build at least 25 Net Zero Energy (NZE) homes by March 2016 as part of this project. The five selected builders participating in this initiative are: Mattamy Homes Limited (Calgary, Alberta); Construction Voyer (Laval, Quebec); Minto Communities (Ottawa, Ontario); Provident Development Inc. (Halifax, Nova Scotia); and Reid’s Heritage Homes (Guelph, Ontario).
  • In Canada the Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition is an industry association promoting net-zero energy home construction and the adoption of a near net-zero energy home (nNZEH), NZEH Ready and NZEH standard.
  • The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is sponsoring the EQuilibrium Sustainable Housing Competition that will see the completion of fifteen zero-energy and near-zero-energy demonstration projects across the country starting in 2008.
  • The EcoTerra House in Eastman, Quebec is Canada's first nearly net-zero energy housing built through the CMHC EQuilibrium Sustainable Housing Competition. The house was designed by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Masa Noguchi of the University of Melbourne for Alouette Homes and engineered by Prof. Dr. Andreas K. Athienitis of Concordia University.
  • The EcoPlusHome in Bathurst, New Brunswick. The Eco Plus Home is a prefabricated test house built by Maple Leaf Homes and with technology from Bosch Thermotechnology.
  • The first net-zero passive house in Northshore, Vancouver, BC, is designed by Dr. Homayoun Arbabian. The design and construction of this SuperEcoHouse is undertaken by Vancouver Green Homes LTD.[citation needed]

China

  • One example of the new generation of zero energy office buildings is the 71-story Pearl River Tower, which opened in 2009, as the China National Tobacco Corporation headquarters. It uses both modest energy efficiency, and a big distributed renewable energy generation from both solar and wind. Designed by Skidmore Owings Merrill LLP in Guangzhou, China, the tower is receiving economic support from government subsidies that are now funding many significant conventional fossil-fuel (and nuclear energy) energy reduction efforts.
  • Dongtan Eco-City near Shanghai

Denmark

Strategic Research Centre on Zero Energy Buildings was in 2009 established at Aalborg University by a grant from the Danish Council for Strategic Research (DSF), the Programme Commission for Sustainable Energy and Environment, and in cooperation with the Technical University of Denmark, Danish Technological Institute, Danfoss A/S, Velux A/S, Saint Gobain Isover A/S, and The Danish Construction Association, the section of aluminium facades. The purpose of the centre is through development of integrated, intelligent technologies for the buildings, which ensure considerable energy conservations and optimal application of renewable energy, to develop zero energy building concepts. In cooperation with the industry, the centre will create the necessary basis for a long-term sustainable development in the building sector.

Germany

  • Technische Universität Darmstadt won first place in the international zero energy design 2007 Solar Decathlon competition, with a passivhaus design (Passive house) + renewables, scoring highest in the Architecture, Lighting, and Engineering contests
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Freiburg im Breisgau
  • Net zero energy- , energy-plus or climate-neutral buildings in the next generation of electricity grids

India

India's first net zero building is Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, located in New Delhi. Features include passive solar building design and other green technologies.

Iran

In 2011, Payesh Energy House (PEH) or Khaneh Payesh Niroo by a collaboration of Fajr-e-Toseah Consultant Engineering Company and Vancouver Green Homes Ltd] under management of Payesh Energy Group (EPG) launched the first Net-Zero passive house in Iran. This concept makes the design and construction of PEH a sample model and standardized process for mass production by MAPSA.

Also an example of the new generation of zero energy office buildings is the 24-story OIIC Office Tower, which is started in 2011, as the OIIC Company headquarters. It uses both modest energy efficiency, and a big distributed renewable energy generation from both solar and wind. It is managed by Rahgostar Naft Company in Tehran, Iran. The tower is receiving economic support from government subsidies that are now funding many significant fossil-fuel-free efforts.

Ireland

In 2005, Scandinavian Homes launched the world's first standardised passive house in Ireland, this concept makes the design and construction of passive house a standardised process. Conventional low energy construction techniques have been refined and modelled on the PHPP (Passive House Design Package) to create the standardised passive house. Building offsite allows high precision techniques to be utilised and reduces the possibility of errors in construction.
In 2009 the same company started a project to use 23,000 liters of water in a seasonal storage tank, heated up by evacuated solar tubes throughout the year, with the aim to provide the house with enough heat throughout the winter months thus eliminating the need for any electrical heat to keep the house comfortably warm. The system is monitored and documented by a research team from The University of Ulster and the results will be included in part of a PhD thesis.

In 2012 Cork institute of Technology started renovation work on its 1974 building stock to develop a net zero energy building retrofit. The exemplar project will become Ireland's first zero energy testbed offering a post occupancy evaluation of actual building performance against design benchmarks.

Malaysia

In October 2007, the Malaysia Energy Centre (PTM) successfully completed the development and construction of the PTM Zero Energy Office (ZEO) Building. The building has been designed to be a super-energy-efficient building using only 286 kWh/day. The renewable energy – photovoltaic combination is expected to result in a net zero energy requirement from the grid. The building is currently undergoing a fine tuning process by the local energy management team. Findings are expected to be published in a year.

Netherlands

In September 2006, the Dutch headquarters of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Zeist was opened. This earth-friendly building gives back more energy than it uses. All materials in the building were tested against strict requirements laid down by the WWF and the architect.

Norway

In February 2009, the Research Council of Norway assigned The Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to host the Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings (ZEB), which is one of eight new national Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research (FME). The main objective of the FME-centres is to contribute to the development of good technologies for environmentally friendly energy and to raise the level of Norwegian expertise in this area. In addition, they should help to generate new industrial activity and new jobs. Over the next eight years, the FME-Centre ZEB will develop competitive products and solutions for existing and new buildings that will lead to market penetration of zero emission buildings related to their production, operation and demolition.

Singapore

Singapore's first zero-energy building was launched at the inaugural Singapore Green Building Week.

Switzerland

The Swiss MINERGIE-A-Eco label certifies zero energy buildings. The first building with this label, a single-family home, was completed in Mühleberg in 2011.

United Arab Emirates

United Kingdom

In December 2006, the government announced that by 2016 all new homes in England will be zero energy buildings. To encourage this, an exemption from Stamp Duty Land Tax is planned. In Wales the plan is for the standard to be met earlier in 2011, although it is looking more likely that the actual implementation date will be 2012. However, as a result of a unilateral change of policy published at the time of the March 2011 budget, a more limited policy is now planned which, it is estimated, will only mitigate two thirds of the emissions of a new home.

  • BedZED development
  • Hockerton Housing Project

United States

Figure 3: Net Zero Court zero emissions office building prototype in St. Louis, Missouri

In the US, ZEB research is currently being supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Building America Program, including industry-based consortia and researcher organizations at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). From fiscal year 2008 to 2012, DOE plans to award $40 million to four Building America teams, the Building Science Corporation; IBACOS; the Consortium of Advanced Residential Buildings; and the Building Industry Research Alliance, as well as a consortium of academic and building industry leaders. The funds will be used to develop net-zero-energy homes that consume at 50% to 70% less energy than conventional homes.

DOE is also awarding $4.1 million to two regional building technology application centers that will accelerate the adoption of new and developing energy-efficient technologies. The two centers, located at the University of Central Florida and Washington State University, will serve 17 states, providing information and training on commercially available energy-efficient technologies.

The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 created 2008 through 2012 funding for a new solar air conditioning research and development program, which should soon demonstrate multiple new technology innovations and mass production economies of scale.

The 2008 Solar America Initiative funded research and development into future development of cost-effective Zero Energy Homes in the amount of $148 million in 2008.

The Solar Energy Tax Credits have been extended until the end of 2016. Solar power in the United States

By Executive Order 13514, U.S. President Barack Obama mandated that by 2015, 15% of existing Federal buildings conform to new energy efficiency standards and 100% of all new Federal buildings be Zero-Net-Energy by 2030.

Energy Free Home Challenge

In 2007, the philanthropic Siebel Foundation created the Energy Free Home Foundation. The goal was to offer $20 million in global incentive prizes to design and build a 2,000 square foot (186 square meter) three-bedroom, two bathroom home with (1) net-zero annual utility bills that also has (2) high market appeal, and (3) costs no more than a conventional home to construct.

The plan included funding to build the top ten entries at $250,000 each, a $10 million first prize, and then a total of 100 such homes to be built and sold to the public.

Beginning in 2009, Thomas Siebel made many presentations about his Energy Free Home Challenge. The Siebel Foundation Report stated that the Energy Free Home Challenge was "Launching in late 2009".

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley participated in writing the "Feasibility of Achieving Zero-Net-Energy, Zero-Net-Cost Homes" for the $20-million Energy Free Home Challenge.

If implemented, the Energy Free Home Challenge would have provided increased incentives for improved technology and consumer education about zero energy buildings coming in at the same cost as conventional housing.

U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an international competition that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. Achieving Zero Net Energy balance is a major focus of the competition.

List

Arizona
California
  • The State of California has proposed that all new low- and mid-rise residential buildings, and all new commercial buildings, be designed and constructed to ZNE standards beginning in 2020 and 2030, respectively. The requirements, if implemented, will be promulgated via the California Building Code, which is updated on a three-year cycle and which currently mandates some of the highest energy efficiency standards in the United States. California is anticipated to further increase efficiency requirements by 2020, thus avoiding the trends discussed above of building standard housing and achieving ZNE by adding large amounts of renewables. The California Energy Commission is required to perform a cost-benefit analysis to prove that new regulations create a net benefit for residents of the state. There has yet to be publicly released analysis of the impact that ZNE standards may have to construction, real estate, and energy prices in the state. Debate exists as to if the state's stringent efficiency requirements are directly responsible for the apparent "flatlining" of residential electricity use in the state since 1975. This debate is relevant to ZNE codes, as it remains to be seen via models or in practice what overall effect the proliferation of ZNE buildings will have on overall electricity use in the state, and at what cost.
  • West Village, located on the University of California campus in Davis, California, was the largest ZNE-planned community in North America at the time of its opening in 2014. The development contains student housing for approximately 1,980 UC Davis students as well as leasable office space and community amenities including a community center, pool, gym, restaurant and convenience store. Office spaces in the development are currently leased by energy and transportation-related University programs. The project was a public-private partnership between the university and West Village Community Partnership LLC, led by Carmel Partners of San Francisco, a private developer, who entered into a 60-year ground lease with the university and was responsible for the design, construction, and implementation of the $300 million project, which is intended to be market-rate housing for Davis. This is unique as the developer designed the project to achieve ZNE at no added cost to themselves or to the residents. Designed and modeled to achieve ZNE, the project uses a mixture of passive elements (roof overhangs, well-insulated walls, radiant heat barriers, ducts in insulated spaces, etc.) as well as active approaches (occupancy sensors on lights, high-efficiency appliances and lighting, etc.). Designed to out-perform California's 2008 Title 24 energy codes by 50%, the project produced 87% of the energy it consumed during its first year in operation. The shortcoming in ZNE status is attributed to several factors, including improperly functioning heat pump water heaters, which have since been fixed. Occupant behavior is significantly different than anticipated, with the all-student population using more energy on a per-capita basis than typical inhabitants of single-family homes in the area. One of the primary factors driving increased energy use appears to be the increased miscellaneous electrical loads (MEL, or plug loads) in the form of mini-refrigerators, lights, computers, gaming consoles, televisions, and other electronic equipment. The university continues to work with the developer to identify strategies for achieving ZNE status. These approaches include incentivizing occupant behavior and increasing the site's renewable energy capacity, which is a 4 MW photovoltaic array per the original design. The West Village site is also home to the Honda Smart Home US, a beyond-ZNE single-family home that incorporates cutting-edge technologies in energy management, lighting, construction, and water efficiency.
  • The IDeAs Z2 Design Facility is a net zero energy, zero carbon retrofit project occupied since 2007. It uses less than one fourth the energy of a typical U.S. office by applying strategies such as daylighting, radiant heating/cooling with a ground-source heat pump and high energy performance lighting and computing. The remaining energy demand is met with renewable energy from its building-integrated photovoltaic array. In 2009, building owner and occupant Integrated Design Associates (IDeAs) recorded actual measured energy use intensity of 21.17 kbtu/sf-year, with 21.72 kbtu/sf-year produced, for a net of -0.55 kbtu/sf-yr. The building is also carbon neutral, with no gas connection, and with carbon offsets purchased to cover the embodied carbon of the building materials used in the renovation.
  • The Zero Net Energy Center, scheduled to open in 2013 in San Leandro, is to be a 46,000-square-foot electrician training facility created by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595 and the Northern California chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association. Training will include energy-efficient construction methods.
  • The Green Idea House is a net zero energy, zero-carbon retrofit in Hermosa Beach.
  • George LeyVa Middle School Administrative Offices, occupied since fall 2011, is a net zero energy, net zero carbon emissions building of just over 9,000 square feet. With daylighting, variable refrigerant flow HVAC, and displacement ventilation, it is designed to use half of the energy of a conventional California school building, and, through a building-integrated solar array, provides 108% of the energy needed to offset its annual electricity use. The excess helps power the remainder of the middle school campus. It is the first publicly funded NZE K–12 building in California.
Colorado
  • The Moore House achieves net-zero energy usage with passive solar design, ‘tuned’ heat reflective windows, super-insulated and air-tight construction, natural daylighting, solar thermal panels for hot water and space heating, a photovoltaic (PV) system that generates more carbon-free electricity than the house requires, and an energy-recovery ventilator (ERV) for fresh air. The green building strategies used by Thomas Doerr of Doerr Architecture and Ecofutures Building on the Moore House earned it a verified home energy rating system (HERS) score of -3.
  • The NREL Research Support Facility in Golden is an award-winning class A office building. Its energy efficiency features include: Thermal storage concrete structure, transpired solar collectors, 70 miles of radiant piping, high-efficiency office equipment, and an energy-efficient data center that reduces the data center's energy use by 50% over traditional approaches.
  • Wayne Aspinall Federal Building in Grand Junction, originally constructed in 1918, became the first Net Zero Energy building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On-site renewable energy generation is intended to produce 100% of the building's energy throughout the year using the following energy efficiency features: Variable refrigerant flow for the HVAC, a geo-exchange system, advanced metering and building controls, high-efficient lighting systems, thermally enhanced building envelope, interior window system (to maintain historic windows), and advanced power strips (APS) with individual occupancy sensors.
Florida
  • The 1999 side-by-side Florida Solar Energy Center Lakeland demonstration project was called the "Zero Energy Home." It was a first-generation university effort that significantly influenced the creation of the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Zero Energy Home program.
Illinois
  • The Walgreens store located on 741 Chicago Ave, Evanston, is the first of the company's stores to be built and or converted to a net zero energy building. It is the first net zero energy retail stores to be built and will pave the way to renovating and building net zero energy retail stores in the near future. The Walgreens store includes the following energy efficiency features: Geo-exchange system, energy-efficient building materials, LED lighting and daylight harvesting, and carbon dioxide refrigerant.
  • The Electrical and Computer Engineering building at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which was built in 2014, is a net zero building.
Iowa