What is net zero energy building (NZEB)?
Net Zero Energy Building is method of design and construction that aims to achieve an energy efficient, grid-connected building, enabled to generate energy from renewable sources to compensate for its own energy demand. As a result, these types of buildings boast a net zero energy consumption, such that the total energy used by the building on an annualized basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site or at a nearby location.
Building owners and developers have demonstrated greater interest in developing zero energy buildings to meet corporate goals and regulatory mandates and the building and design community is rising to the challenge. In fact, in many cases, they are helping to spearhead progressive projects that are truly marvels of ingenuity, engineering and forward-thinking design.
Zero energy buildings are optimized to use passive solar heat gain and shading, combined with thermal mass, to stabilize temperature variations throughout the day. They include a wide variety of energy efficiency measures—some highly complex and others quite simple—such as high efficiency heating and cooling equipment, appliances, windows and doors, as well as added insulation, natural ventilation, air sealing and more advanced renewable energy solutions such as solar photovoltaics and geothermal energy systems.
Net zero energy building is most commonly associated with commercial buildings, but it is possible for any structure to be net zero, including residential homes, as the concept is applicable and scalable to virtually any sized structure, whether a building is an expansive multi-use facility or a tiny home. The concept is even scalable to entire net zero campuses and communities.
The advantages of net zero energy building
In North America, it’s estimated that buildings consume nearly 40 per cent of the total fossil fuel energy and are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing the number of net zero energy buildings reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and is a means to reduce overall carbon emissions. While the initial costs may be higher and the process more challenging, net zero energy construction offers a variety of benefits, including:
- A hedge for building owners against future energy price increases
- Increased occupant comfort, health, well-being and productivity
- Reduce energy consumption and energy costs
- Improved reliability
- Higher resale value as the demand for net zero buildings outpaces supply
- Contribution towards zero energy targets
- Reduced impact on the environment