As the LEED certification system increasingly become the industry standard, many eco-conscious designers and builders are looking towards the next phase of green building – zero energy buildings.
Zero energy construction, or net-zero, requires that a building produce as much energy as it consumes, producing at least a neutral net energy use. Net zero buildings accomplish this by producing much of their energy from renewable, on site sources such as solar, wind, or geothermal, pumping surplus energy back into the grid – only resorting to external power for special conditions (extended cloud cover, night time use, low winds, etc.)
Typically, zero energy buildings are coupled with passive design, which allows for maximal energy efficiency and the lowest possible levels of waste due to light, heating, or other energy components. Zero energy buildings must make full use of the latest insulating technologies, as well as smart design components to allow environmental components (sunlight, rainwater, etc.) to provide much of the occupants’ needs.
According to Pike Research, the zero energy building industry could reach nearly $700 billion by 2020, and over $1.3 trillion just fifteen years later in 2035. As much of the construction industry continues to experience contractions, these ultra-green building projects will gain growing attention – especially in Europe, where zero energy buildings are mandated for all government projects by 2019 and the entire construction sector for 2021. Check out this online database of current net-zero projects.