In our last post, we gave a brief introduction to Net Zero Energy Building. Today, we focus on the design process and are giving you our top 5 Net Zero Considerations. However, designing a Net Zero Building is only around 30% of the building’s total lifecycle costs. The other 70% is Operations and Maintenance of the building so stay tuned for our next post, Living Net Zero.

1. Integrated Design Process with Clear Project Goals

A collaborative design and engineering process must start from day one. The Owner, Architect, Engineers, Specialty Consultants, and Contractor need to weigh in on establishing a realistic program and project goals that meet the project budget. Additionally, and of paramount importance, you must include the operators and occupiers of the building in the conversation. After all, inefficient, unconscious behavior can ruin even the best building’s performance, and the design must be functional and help encourage best practices.

2. Consider Passive Strategies First

  • Climate and Orientation must drive the Site Design, Building Layout and Massing to maximize comfort via passive environmental conditioning, such as heating, cooling, and ventilation.
  • Daylighting can reduce the need for interior lighting, which has a multitude of benefits from lowering energy loads to promoting healthy circadian rhythms.

3. Evaluate Systems & Features that Reduce Energy Consumption

  • Review the Building Assemblies such as Foundation, Floors, Walls, Openings (i.e. Windows and Doors), and Roof. Executing the right combination of materials and insulation with craftsmanship will lead to a smart building envelope that sets the structure up for thermal comfort while simultaneously reducing heat loss/gain and air infiltration.
  • Engineer systems efficiently using the building’s actual energy loads by running calculations and energy models. Sizing mechanical equipment accordingly will not only contribute to the reduction of energy loads but can also be an area for cost savings on initial building expenses.
  • Review the features and uses of the building looking for ways to reduce, recover, regenerate or even self-generate energy at each viable opportunity.

4. Provide Sustainable, Regenerative Power for Remaining Loads

Once the energy loads of the building have been reduced, passive strategies have been put in place, and opportunities for recovering, regenerating, and self-generating energy have been identified, it is time to look at how to produce the Building Energy Loads on site. Strategies may include photovoltaics, wind turbines, geothermal systems, and more.

5. Continual Monitoring & Educating the Building Occupants

Again, a smartly designed building is only as good as occupant habits. Provide data feedback loops where occupants can see the impact of their actions and continue to monitor and commission the building for optimal performance over its lifespan.

As with everything, it is our actions that have the greatest impact. It takes conscious effort to Live Net Zero. Check back in two weeks for our go-to tips for energy conservation.