You might’ve heard of renewable energy and wasteless living, but is it possible to build a net-zero structure? These balanced, clean energy buildings produce equal or more natural energy than they consume, eliminating their carbon footprint and reducing their monthly energy bills. It might seem too good to be true, but they’re found across the world.
A net-zero building is possible. It is achieved by an airtight and insulated envelope that keeps energy requirements low. Good orientation, ventilation, and natural light help reduce energy usage further. Renewable energy installed on site covers the remaining energy requirements.
Throughout this article, you’ll learn the following info about a net-zero building:
- How it works and why it’s so important
- The undeniable benefits of net-zero structures
- Numerous examples of modern-day net-zero buildings
- How you can incorporate net-zero suggestions into your lifestyle
How Does Net-Zero Architecture Work?
If you’ve read about net-zero buildings, then you know they can be quite impressive. Rather than tying into the grid and relying on external fuel sources, they generate high-quality, clean energy. If you’d described these new-age buildings to someone just a few decades ago, they’d think you were crazy.
Here’s how a net-zero building works:
- An airtight and insulated envelope keeps the energy requirements to a minimum. One of the most important features in a net-zero building is an airtight and insulated facade and roof. Thanks to this, the energy requirements for heating and cooling are kept to a minimum.
- Net-zero buildings use solar power to build a battery bank. According to Solarponics, net-zero structures typically rely on the sun’s energy more than anything else. They use solar panels, natural warmth, and nutrients for their yard. The good news is that it’s renewable for the sun’s whole life.
- They incorporate geothermal pipes to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Geothermal energy comes from the earth. Natural heat can be used for heating or energy, depending on the location of the site. While not everyone will be able to access geothermal energy, geothermal heating is accessible in most locations of the planet. Alongside solar power, it’s the only clean energy source that uses virtually zero fossil fuels.
- Proper location and positioning play a significant role. Good orientation is key to ensure that natural ventilation can be easily achieved and that the house can be warmed up passively with the sun. Usually, buildings should be orientated with the long side of the building on the axis north-south and the short side of the building on the axis east-west.
- The local environment directly impacts net-zero architecture. Prevalent local winds, trees in the neighborhood, access to geothermal energy are only a few of the characteristics of the local environment that will mold the design of a net-zero structure.
Net-zero buildings are incredibly efficient and must be the way forward if we want to protect our planet. If you’re intrigued by the impressive nature of this modern architecture, proceed to the next section for a handful of examples.
Examples of Net-Zero Buildings
According to Quartz, the Unisphere is currently the world’s largest net-zero structure. Over 130,000 square feet (12,077 square meters) of solar energy and unbelievable ingenuity architecture make this commercial building quite the spectacle. Its strange shape pulls eyes from all over downtown Silver Spring, a city in Maryland.
While it takes advantage of solar power from end to end, this building uses interesting shapes and artistic suggestions to make people use the stairs instead of the elevator or sunlight from wide windows rather than turning on a heater. These small design changes help make it a highlight of the net-zero community.
Another example is the Walgreens in Evanston, Illinois. As stated by the Sustainable Facilities Tool, it’s one of the few retail stores using solar power to balance its energy needs. The company aims to make it the first retail location to rely solely on the local environment. Even though it’s small, this building paints a bright future.
Finally, the U.S. Courthouse in Grand Junction, Colorado, was renovated to incorporate net-zero values. It cuts the cost and energy used for lights, heating, air conditioning, and more. Not only do the upgrades reduce the courthouse’s energy needs by up to 50%, but they also created a fuel source that covers up to 100% of the building’s requirements for the year.
These changes show century-old buildings have the capability of turning into a net-zero building. We no longer have to create brand-new structures; old buildings can upgrade.
The provided examples prove houses aren’t the only net-zero structures. Major corporations, residential neighborhoods, retail stores, and government offices can join the movement. There’s no reason for any company to avoid net-zero’s clean, renewable energy benefits. Speaking of which, you’ll learn most of them below.
Benefits of Net-Zero Living
It’s impossible to collect all of the net-zero living benefits on one page. However, we’ll do our best to show you why countless people and governments are making the change to net-zero ideas daily. Below, you’ll find five undeniable factors that make it one of (if not the top) best ways of living while reducing carbon emissions.
- You’ll have reduced monthly energy costs. Many energy providers reduce monthly bills for people who switch to net-zero living. Even if they don’t, your energy needs will be drastically reduced by using sunlight and nearby water sources for warmth, cleaning, and drinking. Top it off by staying off-the-grid for some of the lowest energy costs around.
- You might receive an annual tax incentive or credits. The World Green Building Council states that tax credits are provided for many individuals who switch to net-zero living. Our world’s future is at stake for many generations to come, so companies want to show how crucial net-zero living is.
- Net-zero building reduces your carbon footprint. Perhaps the most significant and well-known reason people switch to net-zero living is that it helps the environment. For many generations, it was difficult to see a change caused by global warming and climate change. These days, it’s undeniably evident. Net-zero reduces your impact.
- You don’t have to deal with energy providers as much. If you’re tired of paying high energy bills, staying on hold for countless hours, or calling for professional assistance every time there’s an outage, you’ll enjoy the convenience of net-zero energy. There’s no sacrifice; you save money, time, and energy (in more ways than one).
- There are plenty of net-zero living health benefits. Aside from the previously mentioned financial and environmental aspects, net-zero living allows you to breathe clean air and use natural energy. You don’t have to worry about toxic gaseous fumes, blinding artificial lights, or risking fire hazards from gas leaks.
As you can see, the benefits of net-zero buildings go on and on. Whether you’re in it for the money, health, or environment, everyone can find a reason to switch to net-zero living. You don’t have to make massive sacrifices or spend tons of money to reap these rewards. They’re right in front of you every day.
Living in a net-zero building drastically reduces your need to use man-made energy or rely on fossil fuels. It’s quieter, longer-lasting, and much better for the environment. Financial benefits make it even easier for people to consider net-zero buildings. With new laws in California, Massachusetts, and many other places, it’ll become the regular way of living within a few decades.
Here’s a quick recap:
- Net-zero buildings use renewable energy rather than burning gas.
- You can get a certification to ensure that your building is net-zero.
- Sunlight is a significant factor for net-zero buildings.