Photo: Net zero energy home, Bend, OR - By Ross Chandler
Now that green building techniques and technologies are becoming more integrated into mainstream construction processes, zero energy buildings (ZEBs) are the new frontier. A home or building is considered zero energy when it produces as much energy through on-site renewable generation as it consumes over the course of a year.
According to a Pike Research report, Zero Energy Buildings: Global market, regulatory and technical analysis for energy efficiency and renewable energy in commercial and residential buildings, the market for zero energy building technologies will to grow to $1.3 trillion by 2035. This investment will be driven over the next decade by the European Union’s (EU) Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) which governs EU building energy codes. The EPBD is requiring zero energy construction in public buildings by 2019 and in all new construction by 2021.
In the U.S., requiring zero energy in building energy codes is more limited and fragmented. At this time, only California and Massachusetts are considering requiring zero energy construction by 2030. In addition, all new federal buildings will be required to be zero energy by 2030.
That said, zero energy is entering the US housing market. National production builders like Meritage Homes, Shea Homes and KB Homes are offering cost effective zero energy home construction. At a recent webinar C.R Herro, VP for Meritage Homes, noted that zero energy homes have a special appeal to baby boomers. Faced with living on a fixed income in a world of rising energy prices they are looking at zero energy homes as a way to keep down monthly expenses in retirement. According to Herro, the average 2,000 sf home uses roughly 30,000 kw of electricity annual which translates to more than $100,000 in utility costs over the life of the home.
Here in Oregon, SolAire Homebuilders of Bend built and sold a zero energy home in 2011. A zero energy house was recently completed in the John Day Fossil Beds as part of the National Park Service’s larger effort to make the Painted Hills unit carbon neutral.
The cost of constructing zero energy buildings was the focus of a recent New Buildings Institute (NBI) study. The research report released in March 2012, Getting to zero 2012 Status Update: A first look at Cost and Features of Zero Energy Commercial Construction found that the cost increase for constructing a zero energy buildings ranges from 0% to 10% above conventional construction. While the zero energy buildings NBI analyzed were built using readily available technology, the also report noted that “an integrated design approach with careful attention to building siting and layout, envelope, mechanical systems and electrical systems is critical to achieve
high levels of energy efficiency.”
Photo: Pringle Creek Painters Hall
Two of the 99 buildings the NBI study analyzed are in Oregon. Pringle Creek Painters Hall, a 3,600 sf community center in Salem has been measured to be operating at zero energy since it was completed in 2009. The EcoFlats, a 16,000 sf mixed-use apartment/retail project in Portland, was included in the category of ‘zero-energy-capbable.’ This project demonstrates the appeal of zero energy at consumers at all income levels. Built in a low-to-moderate income neighborhood with typical rents for the area, all the units were leased before construction was complete.
Other zero energy efforts underway in Oregon include:
• Energy Trust Path to Net Zero Pilot which has fifteen commercial projects enrolled.
• Earth Advantage initiated a Zero pilot program for residential construction in early 2012.
• Living Future Institute, with offices in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC, has developed a net zero building certification.