Northeast gears up to fuel hot trend in buildings: net zero energy

Regional efficiency programs build on momentum, bring technical resources

October 9, 2014— The built environment in the United States is poised for a transformation that experts believe will result in high performance, resilient spaces that save owners money on energy expenses. Commercial projects aiming for net zero energy (NZE) performance have grown by 300% since 2012, according to research by New Buildings Institute (NBI). NZE buildings are extremely energy-efficient structures that use only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources such as photovoltaics.
“While still in the beginning stages of market adoption, NZE could expand rapidly in both new construction and major renovations as the design community gains technical capability and owners better understand the benefits of these buildings,” explains NBI Executive Director Ralph DiNola. “When we talk about net zero energy, most people immediately think of California. But, the Northeast is making all the right moves to take the leadership position on this exciting new direction for buildings.”

Vermont and Massachusetts both have statewide policies that support NZE projects and Efficiency Vermont and National Grid are looking to build on the momentum for NZE by providing additional resources that catalyze design innovation and reward owners who pursue NZE buildings. To help build knowledge about best practices in NZE commercial building design and operations, the two entities teamed on Net Zero Northeast, a one-day technical summit for designers and owners/operators. New Buildings Institute and Building Green are also partnering on the event, which was held today at the Vermont State House in Montpelier, Vermont.

“This event builds on Efficiency Vermont’s commercial NZE pilot program that launched earlier this year,” said Paul Duane strategic planning manager at Efficiency Vermont, which is hosting Net Energy Northeast. “Enrolled projects are double what we expected and we know that Vermont’s design community and building owners are ready to set zero energy as a goal,” he said.

Program managers at National Grid agree. “We are seeing an enhanced interest in the design and construction of net zero energy buildings in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Net Zero Northeast Summit will convene owners and design professionals to benefit from the expertise available today to design the buildings for tomorrow,” said Michael McAteer National Grid’s Director of Customer and Business Strategy. National Grid is sponsoring the summit.

ZNE buildings are achievable in all climates including the harsh winter weather of the Northeast utilizing currently available technologies and design strategies, according to a recent study from New Buildings Institute. The 2014 Getting to Zero Status Update released by NBI earlier this year lists NZE projects in 36 states including Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and New York. In addition, projects are growing in square footage and expanding across additional building types with most projects targeting schools and office buildings.

“These documented projects prove the feasibility of net zero energy buildings,” said DiNola. “Our focus now is transferring the knowledge of how to achieve NZE to a greater set of architects, engineers, owners and operators who can go out and create them. The Net Zero Northeast is an incredible learning event for these audiences on what’s to come for the built environment.”

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For more information contact:
Stacey Hobart, New Buildings Institute
503-407-2148; Stacey@newbuildings.org

About Efficiency Vermont
Efficiency Vermont provides technical assistance, rebates, and other financial incentives to help Vermont households and businesses reduce their energy costs with energy-efficient equipment, lighting, and approaches to construction and major renovation. www.efficiencyvermont.org

About National Grid

National Grid is an electricity and gas company that connects consumers to energy sources through its networks. The company is at the heart of one of the greatest challenges facing our society – to create new, sustainable energy solutions for the future and developing an energy system that underpins economic prosperity in the 21st century. www.nationalgridus.com