will be able to help get your facility to net zero energy, notes Kevin
Carbonnier, project manager at
New Buildings Institute.
One way to find someone familiar with net zero energy buildings
is by looking at current or completed projects.
"A lot of the architects and engineers with experience will advertise their buildings or projects they
are working on," Carbonnier says.
"Owners can look to the leaders
for guidance because they can
demonstrate that they can deliver
a zero energy building."
He also suggests looking at case
studies to see if net zero status is
for you. New Buildings Institute
features case studies ranging from
financing to technologies used and
how to benchmark.
"Just by benchmarking alone,
buildings typically use less energy
because you have that tracking
system," Carbonnier says. To
begin, he suggests a two-step process:
1) Benchmark to get a starting
2) Audit the information to get a
report and see where you can
Transition an Existing
Building Toward Net Zero
For an existing building to move
toward net zero energy, you will
need to perform a retrofit because,
in most cases, existing buildings
use more energy than they can
product on site. You will need to
think about interruptions to the
building operation and find non-intrusive solutions to bring energy
Carbonnier describes a project
that the New Buildings Institute is
working on to retrofit a building to
achieve a 20 percent energy savings in a non-intrusive way. "The
way we do that is by putting in
exterior window shading," he says.
"That's a pretty light touch to the
building renovation, and it blocks
out a lot of the heat gain."
The shades are unique in that
the top third of the window has
horizontal louvers so daylight gets
A DASHBOARD LIKE THE ONE AT THE ZERO ENERGY CENTER in San Leandro, CA,
can help make occupants and visitors aware of building metrics.
reflected up to the ceiling. This
helps light the space and reduce
the need for electric lighting,
reducing the lighting load in the
Another area to keep an eye on
as you move toward lower energy
use is plug loads. "As buildings
become more efficient, the proportion of a building's energy use
that's plug loads gets as high as 50
percent or more," Carbonnier says.
Think about how the occupants
of the building are using energy.
"For example, if everyone's charging their laptops or have space
heaters and their desk, these can
add up to a significant portion of
energy use in a low-energy building," he points out.
For the building to be successful, facility owners and managers
need to get buy-in and support
from occupants. Carbonnier
encourages getting tenants on
board by telling them "This is a
really high-efficiency building, we
are trying to conserve energy" so
they understand the goals.
One way he suggests influenc-
Making Sense of Financing
ing occupants is by displaying a
visible dashboard (e.g. a TV in the
building's lobby) that shows the
current building energy use and
generation, so people see and are
aware of what's going on behind
When looking into how to proceed or what to implement first,
Radhika Lalit, senior associate
with Rocky Mountain Institute,
encourages prioritizing projects
that pay back quickly in the short
term (e.g. lighting or controls
upgrades). From there, align larger
energy efficiency projects with
major building lifecycle events
(e.g. replacing HVAC equipment at
the end of its useful life).
"Looking at retrofit projects
plan for their
and renewable energy
Rocky Mountain Institute