U.S. DOE Looks for Agreement on Zero Energy Building Standards

Futurists look for signs that tell them what’s to come. In case you missed it, there was an arm-waving sign earlier this week when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a public notice asking for input on a variety of questions about zero energy building standards. The federal government seeing the momentum building for this practice understands that without some centralized leadership, states and local governments as well as utility programs will proceed on their own with specialized and possibly inconsistent policies and standards.

In a notice published last Tuesday in the Federal Register, DOE asks the public how it feels about the definition for zero-energy buildings, how to designate buildings that meet various standards and how to set guidelines that could help governments, private companies and others in constructing and recognizing the buildings.

“A broadly accepted market definition of [zero-energy building] boundaries and metrics is foundational to efforts by governments, utilities, or private entities to recognize or incentivize zero energy buildings,” the DOE notice says.

The agency did not say that it plans to set its own standards for zero-energy buildings, although it has a program for residential structures called Zero Energy Ready Home. Rather, it wants industry and regulators to agree. Generally, zero energy buildings are defined as those that consume only as much energy as is produced onsite through renewable resources. But, many questions remain such as whether combustion fuels are allowable, do the renewables have to be onsite if there isn’t enough space or can they be close by, how do you calculate emissions saved from zero energy performance, etc.

DOE called a group of experts, including NBI’s Research Director Cathy Higgins, together last summer to look at this issue and the result of that meeting was the basis for a draft document published by the agency as a starting point for the public comments.

“Within the national group there was agreement in many areas, yet strong differing opinions on other areas often driven by whether you looked at the issue from a market, regulatory or technical side.” The outcome of that meeting as well as other market research on zero energy messaging will be discussed at next month’s Getting to Zero National Forum and further inform DOE’s process.

Rarely do we get the chance to knowingly set a course for our future. This is clearly one of those opportunities and we invite industry professionals and interested public to join us Feb. 1-3 in Washington, D.C. to help define it.

Learn more at www.gettingtozeroforum.org/about