What is Net Zero?
“Net zero” means the total amount of energy used yearly by a building is equal to or less than the amount of energy created on-site through the use of innovative technologies and renewable power generation. Achieving this goal will allow for the reduction of energy, waste, and water* consumption to almost zero and greatly reduce the carbon footprint, with the intent of putting excess power back on the grid. (*Due to stringent federal and local water regulations, this project will not be pursuing net zero water strategies although the proper technology for on-site potable water treatment now exists.)
There are four industry-recognized definitions of net zero energy buildings. The most rigorous is known as “net zero site energy,” which requires a building to capture as much energy within the footprint of the project site as it uses on-site over the course of a year. This is the definition adopted by the AGU project design team.
Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) Certification is awarded by the International Living Future Institute and is based around one central requirement: 100 percent of the project’s energy needs must be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis, without the use of on-site combustion. Buildings must also meet an additional list of rigorous performance standards over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy. Net zero buildings consequently contribute less greenhouse gas to the atmosphere than non-NZE buildings.
The District of Columbia’s 2012 sustainability plan calls to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and to plan for climate change impacts by retrofitting 100 percent of existing commercial and multifamily buildings to achieve net zero energy standards by 2032.