Building code updates in parts of the US and Canada are helping to encourage the development of zero energy buildings coast-to-coast that produce at least as much energy as they consume. However, barriers to successful adoption remain, according to a new white paper from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
Author Christopher Perry, senior analyst in the ACEEE’s Buildings Program, wrote that the future is bright for zero energy building codes, as examples from British Columbia, Oregon, and California show. Several states are incorporating zero-energy construction into long-range plans. At the same time, getting adoption on a national scale will require substantial effort.
The white paper, called Pathways to Zero Energy Buildings through Building Codes, looks at the current state of zero energy codes, presents an overview of efforts to achieve zero energy and similar high-performing buildings, and outlines the main hurdles.
Perry identifies these top barriers to zero energy buildings (ZEBs):
- The perception that zero energy buildings require only the addition of solar energy. That “solar-energy” mindset focuses on adding solar to a building without considering energy efficiency, Perry explained in a blog post. ZEBs that lack efficiency generally cost more and miss out on benefits such as better comfort and resilience.
- Pitting onsite solar against community solar. “ZEBs and community storage do not need to be an “either/or” proposition,” Perry wrote. “We can still pursue ZEBs now, and both onsite and community generation can co-exist in a clean energy future.”
- Lack of interest in energy-efficient or zero energy buildings. “ZEB advocates can overcome this barrier by developing code-improvement proposals and supporting voluntary programs that encourage and support ZEB construction,” Perry suggests.
Besides ZEB, the building monikers include net-zero energy (NZE), zero-net energy (ZNE), and zero-carbon. Whatever the name, this approach is gaining interest from building owners, tenants, and landlords, a recent report from Rocky Mountain Institute and Urban Land Institute pointed out.
In September, international building and construction businesses representing $22.95 billion in revenue signed a commitment to have net zero carbon buildings by 2050. And last month, RMI found that the cost to construct zero-energy or zero-energy ready homes had reached parity in some parts of the United States.