What is California doing that we can learn from?

NBI sent out a joint press release with the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission, announcing that the Golden State has hit a major milestone of over 100 verified and emerging zero net energy (ZNE) buildings. With zero energy buildings now in more than 44 states and provinces in North America, this once impossible vision of buildings that generate their own energy is quickly becoming reality.

We’re data hounds here at NBI, and always have our ear to the ground on policy and planning efforts in progress to advance ZNE. As part of our research, we keep a national list of ZNE projects as well as a ZNE Registry  and Getting to Zero Database. Because California is leading the nation in zero energy buildings, NBI has developed a special list for the state to highlight and keep tabs on progress in commercial buildings, the California ZNE Watchlist. Download the Summer edition of the ZNE Watchlist to see the many ZNE projects built or in progress to achieve California’s “Big Bold Energy Efficiency Strategies (BBEES)” and goals for achieving ZNE by 2020 for all new residential and 2030 for all new
commercial.

What is California doing that we can learn from? To start, they set those big bold goals in 2008, followed up in 2012 with the governor issuing an executive order for state buildings. Now, many cities in California and across the country are working on integrating goals for zero energy buildings into both their capital project plans, as well as through their long term citywide strategic plans, demonstrating leadership in their own buildings.

As an urban planner, watching our cities grow rapidly in the midst of a major economic building boom, I am very conscious of the many competing priorities for our cities to address especially related to rising housing costs, livability and quality of life. Since buildings account for 70 percent of our national electricity demand, they represent one of the most significant opportunities to reduce our climate and energy impacts, inspire innovation, and contribute to operational savings for residents and businesses that advance affordability.

If we want to make visionary change, here’s one thing we’ve learned from the 17 zero energy building workshops NBI has helped lead in California over the past few years, with close to 1,000 early adopters: Whether it be a single building, campus or a larger policy, setting that specific zero energy goal has consistently emerged as one of the most influential drivers to move the market. As we are considering our long term building policies and plans for our growing communities, incentivizing zero energy building innovation and demonstrating this in our public buildings is a great way to lead.

Heather Flint-Chatto, NBI Project Manager