Gearing Up: Net Zero Energy Buildings

Yesterday, the International Living Future Institute announced it’s new Net Zero Energy Building Certification program.  Adding to the ever-growing list of green building certifications, the NZEBC has been developed to “galvanize and recognize widespread efforts to eliminate fossil fuel use and conserve energy”.  The program will be linked to the Institute’s Living Building Challenge program and intends to provide 3rd party verification that net zero energy claims for building projects have actually been achieved.  This unveiling is not very surprising given the movement in the building industry over the past few years towards going not only green, but energy-reducing green.

For example, in August, the Net Zero Energy Home Coalition opened up the first of its volunteer-based Activity Task Forces for their long-coming Industry Implementation Plan.  Last year, the Canadian Passive House Institute became an officially registered non-profit, focusing on educating building professionals in Passive House design and construction.  And of course, the continual “greening of the BC Building Code” has incorporated a variety of energy efficiency regulations, including ASHRAE 90.1 energy standards derived from LEED credit requirements.  2012 will bring the newest BC Building Code updates, which promise to raise the bar by mandating even higher energy performance requirements.  Further, the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan has outlined ambitious Targets for 2020, including a requirement for all buildings constructed from 2020 onward to be carbon neutral in operations.

It seems slow but steady progress is being made by the City, Province and various green building organizations, and who is leading whom could be up for debate.  We are just happy to see forward movement from the top.  At the practicing level, we can use the momentum from successfully executed energy-efficient designs to keep pushing innovation forward.  For example, Passive House projects have proven to us that we have the knowledge and technology to seriously conserve energy through our building practices, and projects such as UBC’s CIRS building, which opened to the public last month, teach us that we can also harvest and regenerate more energy than a building even requires if we tap into its sources.

Conservation and regeneration.  Through both we come to net zero.   And net zero energy buildings are coming to BC!