November 4, 2015

Renewable Energy Applications for a Zero Energy Building

A zero energy building, also referred to as “net zero energy” or “zero net energy,” is one with zero net energy consumption. What does that really mean? Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a new common definition for a zero energy building and is now defined as “an energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.” Used in both commercial and residential applications, these buildings are designed to produce enough renewable energy in the summer to offset consumption in the winter.

What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable Energy is power that is generated from a source that is not depleted when used such as the sun, wind, water and earth. This power is produced on or near the building through solar energy, wind turbines, water-powered microturbines or geothermal energy.

Renewable Energy Technologies

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that approximately nine percent of electricity generated in the U.S. currently comes from renewable resources. It is projected that power generation from renewable resources will grow by 3.3% per year through the year 2035. Many businesses and organizations are now incorporating more onsite renewable energy technologies into their new construction or retrofit projects for commercial buildings and includes biomass (such as biofuels), wind turbines, solar and ground source heat pumps.

Solar Photovoltaic

Made of semiconductor materials that release electricity when exposed to light, solar PV systems collect sunlight and converts it into usable power for net zero energy buildings. As long as the sun shines, this renewable resource will be available. Solar design and solar energy technology have proven their efficiency and the benefits for businesses and the environment are numerous.

Energy Modeling

Regardless of the definition for a Net Zero Energy Building, minimizing the energy use through efficient building design is be a fundamental criteria for all of projects. Energy efficiency is generally the most cost-effective strategy with the biggest ROI. Using energy modeling tools, our design team can optimize efficient designs and technologies for your building needs.

The use of energy modeling in net zero buildings can help owners evaluate the payback of green energy solutions, address any problems and see the most cost-effective zero energy strategies to implement.

Providing Clarity across the Industry

The new definition of zero net energy provides important guidelines for measurement and implementation and applies to campuses, portfolios and communities alike. Many buildings around the world seek out to become Net Zero Energy and rely on exceptional energy conservation and on-site renewable generation to meet all of their heating, cooling and electricity needs. Unfortunately, many buildings claim to be Net Zero but are actually not. The Institute’s Net Zero Energy Building Certification™ (NZEB) is the only program that verifies net zero energy building performance.

Sustainable Engineering Firm

By understanding the energy-conserving measures incorporated into building designs, KMB, a sustainable engineering firm, can employ the most appropriate software or analytical tools to quantify the impact of those measures, both environmental and economic. Optimized buildings result in lower energy costs, lower carbon emissions and greater occupant thermal and visual comfort. We understand the need to provide our clients with the lifecycle costs of various building components to ensure the most economically sound alternatives are presented.