Zero Energy Defined
A Zero Energy Building, often seen abbreviated as ZEB, is a building where the amount of imported energy is offset by the amount of exported energy. The building can be a stand-alone building, part of a network, or even part of a larger campus or community. Typically, the amount of energy imported and exported is measured annually. The methodology used to import and export energy can come from various power sources.
Not a Perfect System
Most ZEBs do require the use of traditional energy sources and often receive more than half of their overall energy use from the grid. The difference with a ZEB is that there are renewable energy sources on-site to offset the amount of energy pulled from the grid. Likewise, several Zero Energy Buildings produce some amount of greenhouse gas. They differ from a conventional building though because the greenhouse gas production is offset by the amount of greenhouse gas they are able to reduce as a result of a better sustainable building design. Additionally, there are buildings that are called Energy-Plus Buildings. For these special cases, the building is able to create a surplus of energy. A third designation is a Near-Zero Energy Building or an Ultra-Low Energy House where the amount of overall energy used throughout the year is very close to, but not quite zero.
How to Accomplish Zero Energy Buildings
There are two key components to being able to accomplish a building that is a Zero Energy Building. The first is having an efficient building design to minimize the amount of imported energy needed. This is accomplished through:
● Efficient Systems - It is vitally important to the overall design to make sure the mechanical systems are running as efficiently as possible. This can range from making sure the power of the system is suitable for the size of the building, to confirming that vents and ductwork are run in a way to optimize effectiveness.
● Efficient Building Construction - Making sure the actual building is constructed with sustainable concepts in mind is key. This means choosing eco-friendly materials or orienting the building to take advantage of natural sunlight.
● Change User Behavior - A building can only do so much. Having a Zero Energy Building depends a great deal on the people residing in the building every day. The habits of the people must also reflect a conscious effort to minimize energy waste.
The second key step to making a Zero Energy Building is to have a way to export energy. This can be done with an on-site renewable energy source. Some examples of renewable energy sources include wind, solar, or hydro-energy.
Gausman and Moore's Role
At Gausman and Moore we are passionate about sustainability and we eagerly accept the challenge to create new buildings with minimal impact on our environment. Our professional engineers are able to help with the mechanical and electrical components of a new building. We specialize in sustainable buildings and regularly work with architects, construction managers, building managers, and owners to create a winning design to help achieve the overall goal. If you are interested in learning more please reach out to our team.