‘Net-Zero’ Buildings Are On the Rise Globally

‘Net Zero buildings generate as much energy as they consume, writes Robert Brears

Globally, energy use in buildings and for building construction represents more than a third of global final energy consumption and accounts for nearly one-quarter of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions worldwide.

With rapid urbanisation, energy demand in buildings could increase by 50 per cent by 2050 while global building floor area is expected to double by 2050, increasing energy demand and related GHG emissions.

To reverse rising energy demand and emissions from new buildings many locations around the world have implemented examples of net-zero buildings which produce as much energy onsite as it consumes, over a given year. These buildings pave the future for net-zero buildings to become mainstream in cities around the world.

Sydney’s Net-Zero apartment buildings

As part of Sustainable Sydney 2030’s goal of reducing GHG emissions by 70 per cent based on 2006 levels and having the capacity of meeting up to 50 per cent of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2030, the City of Sydney commissioned an energy consulting firm to study net-zero apartment buildings. The study included modellingtwo actual apartment buildings in Sydney (30-storey) and Melbourne (65-storey) to show that net-zero buildings are technically feasible and highly cost-effective.

At the strategic-level, the programme will inspire the property and development industry to mainstream the construction of net-zero buildings in Australia’s two largestcities, promote efficient technologies that through commoditisationwill bring down the costs for the Australian market, and complement work by the Australian government and other stakeholders to mainstream carbon neutral Australian buildings.

Maryland’s Net Zero Energy School Initiative

The Maryland Energy Administration and the Public School Construction Programme have partnered in a Net Zero School Initiative that involves constructing three new net-zeroenergy schools in Maryland. To be considered for the programme, school districts or local education agencies should have a new public school construction projected to enter the design phase in the near future.

Applications will be assessed on the school district’s interest in the Net Zero Energy Schools Initiative, the proposed construction timeline, the location and geography of the proposed school site, the likelihood of the school achieving net zero energy status, and ease of replicability.

Schools selected to participate in the programme will benefit from funding to help offset the incremental costs of designing and constructing a net-zeroenergy school, reduced utility costs over the life of the new school, national recognition as one of very few schools to achieve net zero energy status, a ‘living laboratory’ that can be used to educate students, educators, and community members about energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Massachusetts’ Pathways to Zero Net Energy Programme

The Massachusetts’ Pathways to Zero Net Energy Programme is a $3.5 million Department of Energy Resources programme designed to facilitate the transition towards a new generation of high-performance buildings.

Of the $3.5 million, $3 million is allocated toward funding feasibility, integrated design, and construction of zero-net energy buildings in Massachusetts. The remaining $0.5 million will be used for workforce development, public awareness, and other market development initiatives that will help grow the zero-net energy industry in the Commonwealth.

To date, 25 projects have been selected for awards through a competitive application process with projects representing a range of locations, strategies, and building types. In addition to the use of solar photovoltaics, the projects utilisea range of energy best practices including proper building orientations, well-insulated and air-tight building envelopes, and heat pumps. The projects also incorporate tenant engagement to ensure building occupants are active participants in the zero-net mission.

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