Understanding Zero Net Energy Buildings
As the construction industry has continued to make great strides in the areas of green, sustainable building practices, recent innovation in construction technologies and practices has allowed for the emergence of zero net energy buildings (ZNEB). Although these buildings may not be considered completely green, specifically in the area of efficient waste management, they do tend to have a lower environmental impact over the life of the building when compared to other green buildings.
What is a Zero Net Energy Building?
ZNEB’s are essentially buildings with zero net energy consumption. This means that the total annual energy usage is about equal to the amount of energy being created on the site of the building. Although they may, at times, use non-renewable sources of energy and contribute to greenhouse gases, ZNEs also compensate by reducing consumption of energy and greenhouse gas emissions in other areas of the same amount. ZNEBs make use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, combined with energy efficient lighting and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to reduce overall energy consumption.
Advantages of Zero Net Energy Buildings
- Cost Savings – Although ZNEBs may seem costly to develop, it is increasingly clear that the efficiency of the building pays for itself and eventually leads to savings in the long run. Because the building can be essentially self-sustainable, the owner of the building would incur little to no energy costs over the life of the building.
- Property Value – As the sustainable building trend remains prevalent, this has become a significant deciding factor for homebuyers when looking for properties. ZNEBs offer a competitive advantage in the market due to the attributed cost savings and zero environmental impact.
- Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions – This building practice can significantly reduce or eliminate any dependence on fossil fuels, contributing to a safer environment not only for society today, but for the generations ahead as well.
Although the future of ZNEBs is unclear due to the intensive design and technological requirements the building process entails, it is increasingly apparent that the potential for complete sustainability and significantly reduced environmental impacts will attract more attention as time passes. As the construction technology industry continues its upward trend, we can be sure that the industry will also seek to make ZNEBs much more feasible, if not a standard in all future construction projects.