Breaking Down Net Zero Building: Reality or Wishful Thinking?

By Ashley Halligan, an analyst at Software Advice and guest author to Enerdynamics’ Energy Currents 

Commercial and industrial facilities throughout the United States account for 40% of all energy use. That said, as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, it’ll be required that all federal buildings become net zero energy consumption by 2030 – and all commercial buildings by 2050.

But, what exactly does “net zero” consumption imply? Though there are variations of this phrase, the most widely accepted definition is as so: net zero indicates that a building has generated at least as much power as it has consumed over a 12-month benchmarking period – which is the standard benchmark given that it factors in seasonal variants.

Several experts have chimed in to discuss how an existing facility can make retrofits when undertaking a net zero project, how to begin a from-the-ground-up initiative, and discuss whether the idea on a wide-scale is, in fact, possible.

Beginning with the case study of McCormick, the food conglomerate, McCormick’s Sustainable Manufacturing Manager Jeff Blankman explains how they developed a five-year energy efficiency plan at their distribution center in Belcamp, Maryland – a 363,000-square-foot facility. Initially, net zero was not their goal – rather an overall reduction in consumption with common upgrades like efficient lighting, HVAC system, and motion sensors.

After seeing a 55% reduction in consumption, McCormick decided to further their consciousness by installing photovoltaic solar panels on its roof, provided by Constellation Energy. After the standard 12-month benchmarking period, they were pleasantly with not only achieving net zero consumption – but also having an energy surplus.

Blankman explains, “The most important maneuver in a net zero makeover is to focus on energy efficiency first. You must reduce consumption – making a facility as efficient as possible.”

Then, use an alternative energy resource to achieve the remaining energy necessary to operate.

In the case of ground-up initiatives, the experts offer four considerations:

1) Do thorough energy and cost modeling before hand, and don’t be too optimistic. Keep in mind things like occupant behavior and climate fluctuations. It’s impossible to accurately predict consumption.

2) Research funding opportunities and tax incentives. There are many state and federal-level funding options and tax incentives that can save your organization significantly.

3) Have an integrated plan for the design phase. Having multiple minds from all roles of a project including the design team, management team, CEO, etc. will provide a collective group of minds for the project analysis.

4) Know the project will be challenging and will require ongoing insight. Dru Crawley, Director of Building Performance at Bentley Systems, says, “It requires a commitment from the building owner and operator to ensure the design intent is carried out. It requires that all energy use in the building be considered. It also takes periodic testing – energy simulation – to ensure performance goals remain on track.”

So, from a wide-scale perspective, is this a reality or wishful thinking?

Crawley suggested that net zero communities may be more realistic than expecting all buildings to be able to achieve an equilibrium between generation and consumption. Multiple story buildings, for example, cannot generate the same amount of solar power as a large single-floor distribution center such as McCormick. Crawley explains, “The potential over-supply from lower energy-intensity one and two-story buildings can offset higher energy-intensity higher-rise buildings.”

Read the original story here.

About Enerdynamics

Enerdynamics was formed in 1995 to meet the growing demand for timely, dynamic and effective business training in the gas and electric industries. Our comprehensive education programs are focused on teaching you and your employees the business of energy. And because we have a firm grasp of what's happening in our industry on both a national and international scale, we can help you make sense of a world that often makes no sense at all.
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One Response to Breaking Down Net Zero Building: Reality or Wishful Thinking?

  1. Pingback: Breaking Down Net Zero Building: Reality or Wishful Thinking? by Ashley Halligan « The Uncarved Blog

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