The Key Components of Zero Energy Buildings

by | Oct 17, 2017

Commercial and residential buildings are a drain on energy; close to 48% of energy in the US goes towards powering such buildings. Constructing — and maintaining — a zero energy building should follow several key components.

According to, the key components of a zero energy building include simple, off-the-shelf technologies beginning with energy modeling software. Such software helps determine the most cost-effective mix of energy saving technologies needed to get to zero energy.

Energy saving technologies to examine include:

  • Insulation
  • Air sealing
  • Heating and cooling
  • Lighting
  • Windows
  • Shading systems
  • Water heating
  • Appliances
  • Ventilation
  • Solar PV
  • Building integrated photovoltaics
  • On-site batteries
  • Energy efficient workstations, a resource site for zero net energy investors and builders, sees the recent natural disasters as an opportunity to rebuild in an energy efficient manner. The site states that many homes in Texas, Florida, and along the Gulf Coast have been so extensively damaged that they must be razed and replaced. And some homes in the West have been burned to the ground. These homes should be rebuilt to meet one of several zero energy home standards.

It goes on to state that the national Zero Energy Ready Home standard is particularly appropriate because this level of efficiency requires that the home reduce energy use to the point that the addition of on-site solar panels or the purchase of renewable energy contracts would supply all the energy the home needs. Building to zero energy ready allows flexibility because the solar panels can be installed in the future, keeping initial costs down and allowing further price reductions in solar technology to occur before installing them.

Net zero energy construction has found popularity in many areas of the US, including California. The state’s Central Valley will be home to the California’s largest net zero energy housing development, slated to open in the second quarter of 2018. De Young Properties is behind the forward-thinking construction.

“We know that at some point the state will require everyone to do this. Why not learn it ahead of time, get used to it and figure out how to bring costs down earlier?” said Executive Vice President Brandon De Young on

De Young’s goal is to minimize a building’s electrical load and install enough solar to cover what load might remain. The builder also focused on improvements to the building envelope by using higher density wall and ceiling insulation, better insulated windows, high-efficiency air conditioning systems and an electric heat pump.

The state’s neighbor to the north, Oregon, is also showing support for net zero energy facilities. A wastewater treatment plant in Gresham, Oregon, recently achieved net zero energy consumption. To do this, the plant, back in 2005, installed a biogas generator, allowing the facility to convert methane gas into energy. In 2010, the plant installed a 1,900-panel solar array to add to the facility’s renewable energy initiatives.

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