Looking Back and Forward . . . to a New Year

Every so often it’s good to look back on the path you’ve been traveling to make sure you’re still headed in the right direction. So here at the end of 2013, we at NBI are reflecting on the highlights of the past 12 months. Without a doubt, zero net energy (ZNE) and realizing energy savings in existing buildings–both through improved energy codes and technical support for deep energy retrofit projects–dominated our work.

Zero net energy is a nascent, but growing trend that has captivated owners, tenants and design teams alike. ZNE is defined by innovation and excellence in the quest to create ultra energy-efficient structures that produce at least as much energy onsite as they consume over the course of a year. NBI staff members were busy this year researching new ZNE projects and developing our second status update on this practice. The findings including numbers, locations and technologies of projects throughout North America will be released this month and summarized during a January 16 webinar. Space is limited so register today!In addition, our ongoing work with early adopters in California has supported action to meet the requirement that new state buildings and major renovations are ZNE starting in 2025.

The new ZNE Communications Toolkit, developed by NBI, answers frequently asked questions about achieving zero net energy performance, best practices, California’s goals related to ZNE and case studies of ultra-low energy projects.In September, NBI and NASEO (National Association of State Energy Officials) held the Getting to Zero National Forum, a first-of-its-kind gathering that brought together a cross-section of leading policy makers, design professionals, building owners and commercial real estate representatives to discuss the policy and program drivers important to accelerating zero net energy projects. There were many highlights, some of them published in a six-page summary by State & Local Energy Report and a recent blog from NBI Executive Director Ralph DiNola.

Realizing deep energy savings in existing buildings has been a focus for NBI for several years, with research, case studies and two national summits gathering thought leaders to consider ways to bring deep energy retrofits to scale. That ground work paid off in 2013 in several ways including the release of a 66-page report on Realizing the Energy Efficiency Potential of Small Buildings.The report was produced by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Green Lab in partnership with NBI and outlines opportunities for energy efficiency solutions by building types and actions for stakeholders. The study found that while efforts to conserve energy commonly focus on larger structures, the reality is that 95 percent of all commercial buildings are less than 50,000 square feet. It also estimates that investments in energy conservation could generate $30 billion in annual energy cost savings, improving the financial performance of millions of small businesses.

The early research findings contributed to a recent U.S. Department of Energy investment of $10 million for six deep energy efficiency projects to reduce carbon pollution and energy bills in small commercial buildings. NBI is partnering with one of the award recipients, Ecology Action of Santa Cruz, Inc., on a project to use low-cost, high-impact tools to analyze and implement deep energy retrofits and financing options that are appropriate for small buildings.

Energy codes also made significant progress in the area of existing buildings with NBI and several other leading organizations proposing changes that were adopted and will clarify and strengthen how the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and the International Existing Building Code (IEBC) applies to existing buildings. In addition, the definition of “Historic Building” will now allow for the consideration and possibility of energy efficiency upgrades in historic structures.

From an organizational standpoint, NBI welcomed a new executive director at mid-year. Ralph DiNola hails from the green building industry and has brought a strong vision for NBI that will lay the foundation for our work over the next five years. This work falls into critical themes that reflect NBI’s value to the industries we serve. We encourage you to view the slide show highlighting the 8 Great Reasons Why NBI and consider supporting NBI as we continue to push the boundaries on “What’s Next” for high performance building in 2014 and beyond.Continued innovation in energy code development and release of the next generation of our New Construction New Construction Guide are two themes NBI stakeholders should watch for.  The New Construction Guide builds on our previous guidance–Core Performance–and outlines a direct, whole building approach to energy efficiency with savings of 30% to 40% over conventional buildings.For updates on these efforts and other news from NBI, join our RSS Feed or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn. As always, feedback on your experiences with NBI are appreciated.

Happy New Year from NBI!