WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reached a significant milestone in bringing the building community together by releasing a common definition of a zero energy building, or what is also referred to as a “net zero energy” or “zero net energy” building.

After leading an extensive stakeholder engagement process over the past year and a half, the DOE released its findings in the recently published “A Common Definition of Zero Energy Buildings,” which defines a zero energy building as “an energy-efficient building where, on a source-energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.”

This definition also applies to campuses, portfolios, and communities. In addition to providing clarity across the industry, this new DOE publication provides important guidelines for measurement and implementation, specifically explaining how to utilize this definition for building projects.

“Reducing energy use in buildings must be a major part of the solution as we work to combat the escalating costs and impacts of climate change,” said Brendan Owens, chief engineer at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). “While we’re making significant progress to save energy in buildings, this zero energy building definition developed by the DOE helps increase expectations and orient the buildings industry toward even greater achievements. The USGBC applauds the DOE’s effort to define zero energy buildings, and we look forward to continuing to champion the cause of building efficiency and renewable energy applications to meet the ambitious goals of this definition.”

In collaboration with the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), the DOE initiated a process last year to work with a large, diverse set of building industry stakeholders to develop its common definition of what it means to be a zero energy building. Generally speaking, a zero energy building produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, thereby reducing the use of non-renewable energy in the building sector. There are a number of long-term advantages of buildings meeting this goal, including lower environmental impacts, lower operating and maintenance costs, better resilience to power outages and natural disasters, and improved energy security.

This clarification will help more building owners determine if developing a zero energy building is right for them. By creating this common definition for zero energy buildings, building owners and project teams can now better focus their efforts on implementing strategies to improve the performance of their buildings.

For more information, or to view the zero energy building definition, visit http://1.usa.gov/1MeKQyo.

Publication date: 10/26/2015

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