Is Net Zero Building the Future of Building (or Wishful Thinking?)
As sustainable building trends continue to emerge, the ambitious goal of net-zero building continues to emerge among industry leaders. Imagining a building that literally produces as much--or more--energy than it consumes almost seems unachievable. However, both major organizations and small businesses are showing us exactly the opposite--with careful planning and responsible energy management practices. Net zero is achievable. But on how wide of a scale?
I recently had the opportunity to discuss the growing trend with a handful of industry professionals--including the Sustainable Manufacturing Manager at McCormick whom provided a promising case study of the transformation of one of their facilities--a 363,000 square foot distribution center which achieved net zero earlier this year.
Organizations are showing us that net zero is widely achievable with two primary steps: first addressing current consumption across a facility, and secondly--retrofitting a building to both reduce and produce energy.
Generally, energy reduction retrofits include upgraded lighting and HVAC--meanwhile, photovoltaic solar (PV) panels are installed to produce remaining energy that can result in equilibrium. PV panels may sound like a hefty investment, but the prices of solar paneling are quickly dropping; furthermore, many energy supply companies are supplying and installing such installations as part of power purchase agreements requiring little, if any, up front investment from the organization. Finance payments, of sorts, can be made towards the cost of installation via energy savings over time.
And what do experts think of the future of net zero building? Obviously some organizations, depending on their nature, will have a much more difficult time in achieving ambitious goals like these.