Case Studies: Zero Net Energy Non-Residential Buildings

April 12, 2015
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Six non-residential buildings were designed and built to perform at zero net energy (ZNE) consumption over the course of a year. Extensively monitored under the Pacific Gas & Electric Company's ZNE Pilot Program, each has proven to meet or exceed that level of performance for at least one year of post-construction occupancy.

Design of zero net energy buildings is a relatively new area of work within the profes­sional community of building designers. To date only a small number of these designs have been built within the U.S. Fewer still have been occupied long enough to collect sufficient monitored data about their energy use and on-site renewable energy supply to demonstrate that the designs were in fact successful examples of ZNE performance. These first early successes are therefore valuable sources of insights and information about design process, design strate­gies, post-occupancy building issues and corrective measures taken to ensure actual ZNE performance.

This last point is one principal focus of these ZNE case studies, namely to present in some detail the problems discovered from reviewing the metered data once the building was occupied and what changes were made to the building and its use patterns in response to this information.

As these case studies illustrate, architects and engineers generally have the skills and experi­ence to design ZNE buildings provided that this objective is consistently embraced in the early part of the process and involves integrated disciplines with each early decision-making step. Success is also the product of adhering to the following general four-step process, as will be illustrated by each of the case study buildings: ZNE_Case _Study _Buildings -cover

  • Set the energy performance target
  • Design to this target
  • Build to this design
  • Monitor, diagnose and correct actual performance

Zero net energy (ZNE) buildings represent a new paradigm in the design of the built environment, an approach that has the potential to achieve massive reductions in the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that will otherwise result if most buildings continue to rely on nonrenewable, carbon-based sources of energy.

These case studies show that building industry leaders who target this new level of building performance can meet this challenge, reinforcing California's reputation for being the incubator and early adopter of transformative ideas with practical feasibility.



NB: A revision to this report was released on April 16, 2015.

Volume 2, featuring five more buildings, will be available in 2016.


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