In our last two posts, Understanding Net Zero and Designing Net Zero, we focused on steps to achieve a Net Zero Energy Building by first reducing the need for energy and second designing and engineering efficient building systems that are passive or renewable where possible.

However, at the end of the day, if people aren’t living net zero the project won’t have successful performance metrics. Living Net Zero takes conscious decision making and lifestyle habits and is the final ingredient to ensuring any Net Zero project’s success.

Net Zero in the Real World

The Bullitt Center in Seattle is a Net Zero Building that also achieved all the Petals of the Living Building Challenge – site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty.  It was not only the vision of the Owner and team of professionals that made this possible, it was and is the people who occupy the building each day that matter the most. In fact, the Bullitt Center spent the time and money to create a dashboard system for their tenants that shows real-time data about energy and water use.  The Bullitt Center relies on tenant behavior to meet the goals of net zero energy and water. As Luke McKneally, Project Manager for the Bullitt Center’s solar engineering said when speaking about designing the solar array for the Bullitt Center, “There is no such thing as a net-zero building, only net-zero occupants.” When not ran properly and maintained, an energy-efficient design can be wasted.

10 Simple Tips to Reduce Energy in Your Life

The good news is that even if your home or workplace was not designed to achieve net zero energy, there are still plenty of lifestyle choices you can make to reduce energy:

  1. Turn off unnecessary lights during the day and use daylight.
  2. Or, if you’re in a location without enough daylight to do so, swap your bulbs for LEDs.)
  3. Unplug or fully shut down electronics when not in use.  Often, when things are “off” they still draw energy from the system.
  4. Turn off your WiFi and phones when you’re sleeping or away.  There is no need to waste additional energy or emit unnecessary EMF.
  5. When purchasing a new appliance, look for efficient appliances. The ENERGY STAR® label is a good place to start, and products continue to improve!  But again, be sure to turn them off when not in use.
  6. Take shorter showers.  Not only will you reduce your water use but also the energy required to heat it.
  7. Adapt to seasonal temperatures.  Do you really need to be comfortable in shorts in winter?  Altering your home temperature by even 1 degree can have a huge impact!
  8. Use a programmable thermostat.  Such systems make it convenient by automatically adjusting temperatures during the hours you’re away, at work, or asleep.
  9. Don’t leave doors or windows open while mechanical systems are running.
  10. Contact your energy provider and sign up for their Green Energy program. (Most suppliers do offer these; you just have to ask.)

Looking Toward the Future

For the future, we must think beyond a single building and begin to design entire communities that are Net Zero.  Picture communities that are truly sustainable in that they are closed loop and house renewable energy sources on-site while harvesting their water and reducing waste in order to not pollute their own landscapes with growing landfills.

Such communities already exist, such as Utah’s Living Zenith community, and more will continue to pop up around the country.

Additional Resources:

Bullitt Center Information: http://www.bullittcenter.org/2013/04/03/solar-at-the-bullitt-center/
International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) Guidelines:  https://living-future.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/NZEB_Documnentation_Requirements.pdf

Vera Iconica Architecture is committed to wellness – both for the health of humans and the health of the planet. Contact us if you’re ready to make a difference today!