2016 Getting to Zero National Forum – Growing a Movement

The NBI Getting to Zero Forum team is back in Portland after a HUGELY successful week in Denver hosting the third Getting to Zero National Forum with our co-hosting partner, Rocky Mountain Institute. In many ways, the events of the Forum feel like a milestone and a turning point for supporting and growing a movement toward a zero net energy built environment. The passion and energy of the participants was palpable and the range and diversity of the plenaries and education sessions demonstrated depth and maturity for a movement that is beginning to sweep the building industry and becoming the North Star for the next wave of vision, leadership and innovation in the building industry.gtzforum2016_3

Several themes emerged out of the Forum, based upon a carefully curated program of industry thought leaders and experienced professionals driving this movement:

Energy + Carbon and the Grid
Enthusiasm pervaded the Forum about the commitment of over 190 nations signing the COP21 Paris accord. Ratification of the agreement in the days leading up to the Forum felt like an endorsement of our efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the built environment, arguably the leading sector to deliver rapid near-term reductions in CO2 emissions. At the Forum, we brought some focus to definitions and strategies that would help connect our work to the accord’s critical goals. Two key components of that are the announcement of a new definition of Zero Net Carbon (ZNC ) developed by Architecture 2030, Rocky Mountain Institute and NBI. With his definition, we intend to bring focus to net carbon emissions from buildings as a metric to support a global movement to reduce CO2 in the building sector. The second was an emphasis on the role that buildings play in optimizing energy on the grid. A day-long workshop and education track covered many facets of this emerging and important element of getting to zero, how we can design buildings to be good grid citizens as we decarbonize buildings and the grid. ZNE and ZNC address the needs of more constituencies and help establish and reinforce the distinct positions and strategies key player have igtzforum2016_2n the industry.

People, Policies, Projects
At NBI, we have always understood and emphasized the importance of people in project success. Every successful project has a champion that has provided vision and leadership and the stick-to-itiveness to get the job done, with enthusiasm and stakeholder support. This theme rang true as project leaders presented their successful projects and lessons learned throughout the Forum. A clear take-away was that we need that vision, leadership and collaboration to advance the movement rapidly and get it to scale.

Policy leadership was also a major theme. In order to successfully bring about persistent change, innovative policies can be leveraged to make vision a reality. Representatives from leading states including Andrew McAllister of the California Energy Commission, Patrick O’Shei of NYSERDA and Kevin Kampschorer of GSA, as well as cities and school district representatives shared their insights on how they are working to shape policies to get the building sector to zero, while managing the constrains of existing policies, statutes and market realities.

When it comes to ZNE achievement, ultimately, the proof is in the pudding and the project case studies presented at the Forum truly told the story of how teams are successfully getting to zero on real projects. Sharing project insights and lessons learned, those project leaders revealed the strategic and technical approaches to achieve ZNE on a variety of building types, climates and ownership types today.

Engagement, Activation, Commitment
One of the most important reasons that we hold the Getting to Zero National Forum is to convene a broad spectrum of leaders and practitioners spanning the energy and building sectors in order to continue to build and activate a network of ambassadors and drive commitments for action. I was so excited to see that when I asked people who were new to the Forum to stand and be welcomed, about half of the audience stood up!

Every single participant in the Forum is a leader of this nascent movement. We need to broaden our reach, engage and activate those that are key players in making this effort an even bigger success. At NBI, we will continue to bring together our partners and will drive action through the development of captivating programs that will catalyze our community and transform the building industry to Zero. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be sharing more of the fantastic outcomes from the Forum and providing more nuggets of inspiration, detail insights and additional resources to support your leadership efforts. Check out the details of the Forum at: www.gettingtozeroforum.org, @ZeroEnergyBldgs and #GTZ2016Forum. We look forward to continuing to engage with you. Please join us and let us know how we can help you achieve success in Getting to Zero!

Ralph DiNola, CEO