NBI's Key Markets

NBI has worked collaboratively for more than 20 years with industry market players that include governments, utilities, energy efficiency advocates and building professionals to promote advanced design practices, innovative technologies, public policies and programs that move buildings to zero energy and zero emissions. Our work falls into three major program areas (Getting to Zero Leadership, Building Innovation, and Advanced Codes & Policies) and includes three key markets where our efforts can make the largest impact. NBI staff members can help your organization achieve zero energy and zero carbon emissions. Contact our development manager to learn more, her email appears below.

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Getting to Zero in Schools

Hood River Middle School
Credit: Michael Mathers

New Buildings Institute works to transform the ways American school buildings use energy. We are working with schools district leadership, design professionals and facilities managers to advance zero energy in school buildings.


  • Schools represent the third largest sector of commercial building energy usage in the United States. School building energy consumption costs U.S. school districts more than $8 billion per year.
  • A child will spend 1,000 hours a year (Center for Public Education) in their school, making a healthy indoor environment of utmost importance.
  • High performance and zero energy schools improve student performance, health and wellness. For example, students in classrooms with natural light showed a 20-26% improvement on test scores compared to artificially lit environments.
  • School buildings can achieve zero energy and lead the way for more zero energy / zero carbon buildings in their communities.
  • Zero Energy (ZE) schools have an energy use intensity that is approximately one-third of the average conventional school. ZE schools not only reduce operating costs; they also reduce the carbon footprint of our schools through their use of renewable power.

NBI’s research shows the number of zero energy educational facilities has more than doubled since 2014 – and most of those joining our Zero Energy Schools list are K-12 schools. NBI is working to help K-12 school districts get on the path to zero energy, and even zero carbon, by transforming all new school construction and 50% of existing K-12 schools to zero energy by 2035.

NBI can help a school district of any size, anywhere in the country, with consultative and educational support for local school designers, builders, and school administration at the state and local level. NBI’s capabilities working with states, school districts and designers include:

  • Benchmarking school facilities and prioritizing the best opportunities for energy savings.
  • Charrette Facilitation on new construction or renovation projects to ensure goals are properly set and process is in place to meet them.
  • Custom Training and Webinars to make certain design teams can deliver on high performance energy goals and school leadership understand the value of zero energy schools.
  • Curriculum Support that ties real-time zero energy building operations with next-generation science standards and common core math learning outcomes.
  • Guidance, Tools, Policies and Publications customized to support a district’s local market and specific needs, including best practices for Owner’s Project Requirements (OPRs), Energy Management Plans, Requests for Proposal (RFPs) and other contracting, construction and commissioning documentation.

GridOptimal Buildings Initiative

Buildings across the country are becoming more energy efficient and adding renewable energy systems in the form of solar panels, wind turbines, battery storage and other energy technologies in efforts to tackle impacts of climate change. These renewable power resources are revolutionary, but present a risk to the nation’s power grid. For more than a century, energy from the grid has flowed only one way, from the large centralized (and likely fossil-fueled) power plant to the customer.

Why is this no longer reality?
With the proliferation of renewable solar panels on homes and buildings across the country, power now flows both ways, which can lead to challenges in power grid operation. These challenges range from increased utility costs, to wasted energy, to brownouts or blackouts.

NBI’s GridOptimal Buildings Initiative is creating a metric by which building features and operating characteristics that support more effective building-to-grid operation can be measured and quantified. The initiative will provide standards, tools, and guidance to improve building-grid interactions in the built environment by empowering owners, architects, and engineers with dedicated metrics, strategies, and pilot projects. By adopting GridOptimal building features, communities and electric utilities will have a new touchstone to support grid operation.

GridOptimal is a joint effort of NBI and the US Green Building Council. The initiative is currently supported by: Southern California Edison; Austin Energy; Pacific Gas & Electric Company; Sacramento Municipal Utility District; Rocky Mountain Institute and Integral Group.

NBI offers utilities and businesses the opportunity to guide the GridOptimal initiative in its early stages. Participants can receive benefits including:

  • Optional GridOptimal pilot building site for your customers or organization to use the metric
  • Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) membership
  • Regular project updates and access to results of research
  • Potential co-branded guidance and tools

State & Local Governments

Cities, states and other governmental entities have immense power to cut carbon emissions for everyone. Between the nearly 10 billion square feet of commercial real estate that governments own and their responsibility to determine how all buildings are constructed, the potential savings they can create is enormous. But, these savings are only achievable if governments adopt and widely champion zero energy/zero carbon building techniques.

New Buildings Institute envisions a future where every government building is zero energy with significant carbon reduction benefits. The transformation of jurisdictions’ built environment to zero energy could save more than 88 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road for a year.)

We are currently working with a number of state and local government entities at various levels and stages including:

  • Developing building and energy codes that move government agencies and their citizens toward a zero energy / zero carbon future. To develop the best tools for each agency, NBI consults its Multi-Measure Matrix (M3 Tool), a dynamic inventory of measures that appear in energy codes and standards as well as those that are under development.
  • Creating code “roadmaps” that engage the community in improving energy efficiency codes and chart a policy-based path to meet energy and climate goals
  • Analyzing public buildings through our Public Building Portfolio Management approach to assess and prioritize portfolios for energy use and recommend retrofits with the highest potential for energy savings or zero energy achievement
  • Training government stakeholders, building owners, architects, trade allies and others to overcome barriers that prevent rapid adoption of zero energy / zero carbon building techniques
  • Custom webinars, charrettes, guides, and training tools, covering best practices for creating and operating ultra-lowe energy and zero energy buildings

NBI has helped forward-thinking cities, states, and other governmental entities with consultative and educational support. Our team has assisted:

  • Cities: Los Angeles, Washington D.C., San Jose, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland, Santa Monica, Cambridge (MA), Boulder (CO), Denver, Reno (NV), Providence (RI), Vancouver (BC), San Francisco, Phoenix, New York City, San Mateo (CA)
  • States: California, New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont


Meghan Humphreys, Development Manager, to learn more.