ZNE Fellowship

Shilpa Surana

Oregon’s net zero energy (NZE) buildings market is getting a boost with a new Net Zero Fellow to focus on one of the major barriers to NZE adoption—money. The fellowship was awarded by the Energy Trust of Oregon to Shilpa Surana of Brightworks Sustainability. For the next 18 months, Surana will be looking at the most cost effective and technically feasible ways to reach net zero energy consumption, specifically in midrise multifamily buildings, and low to midrise office buildings.

In addition to the fellowship, Energy Trust New Buildings also supports NZE construction through the Path to Net Zero offering, which incentivizes building owners through financial support and technical assistance to build higher performing commercial buildings. NZE buildings are highly energy efficient, consuming only as much energy as can be produced onsite through clean, renewable resources such as solar. The fellowship was developed with support from a panel of advisors including New Buildings Institute.

Oregon is already a leader in NZE development currently ranking 2nd in the nation, according to NBI’s Getting to Zero tracking list. Oregon has 29 projects with either verified or emerging NZE performance, or verified low-energy projects on par with NZE. Even with these examples, thoughtfully planned NZE buildings are still seen as being too expensive to be feasible. Net Zero Fellow Surana wants to change that perception. As Brightworks’ lead energy analyst and modeler, she has made it her goal to find the most cost effective way to reach net zero.

“We designed the Net Zero Fellowship to encourage innovation and inspire activity within Oregon’s design community. With a limited infusion of funding, we’ve been able to tap into Oregon’s extensive energy expertise,” said Jessica Iplikci, Energy Trust’s Business Sector Manager.

Surana will start her research by analyzing existing high-performance buildings completed in the past five years. She’ll evaluate alternative strategies using a formula that explores cost, economic feasibility, and operational energy savings. Results will be shared publicly and presented as prototypes for new ways to view net zero structures. It’s possible that her results will not demonstrate cost parity between net zero and business-as-usual buildings, but through iterations on systems and cost, Surana’s research will identify the most cost-effective, high-performance strategies.

Learn more at: https://energytrust.org/pathtonetzero/

Amy Cortese, Associate Director