Net zero is a term that has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly in the building industry. The concept of net zero when talking about energy refers to the balance between the amount of energy a building uses and the amount of energy it generates. In other words, a net zero energy building produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year.
There is no doubt that achieving net zero is a lofty goal, but one that is becoming more and more necessary as the effects of climate change become increasingly apparent. Since buildings are responsible for approximately 30% of greenhouse gas emissions in California, reducing the energy consumption and emissions is crucial in the fight against climate change.
Building designers and architects must focus on two key areas: energy efficiency and renewable energy. Energy efficiency can include energy savings due to building orientation and passive heating or cooling as well as high-performance insulation, efficient HVAC systems, and LED lighting. By reducing the amount of energy a building uses, it becomes easier to generate all of the necessary energy through renewable sources.
Renewable energy sources that can be used to power net zero buildings include solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal systems. These technologies are becoming increasingly affordable and accessible, making it easier for building owners to generate their own renewable energy on-site.
The concept of net zero can be applied to other building-related environmental impacts like water use or waste. As with energy, we need to reduce the impacts first by using efficient water fixtures or eliminating single-use items. Then we can look at ways to reuse the water that comes onsite or reuse items that have met their end-of-life.
In addition to these measures, achieving net zero also requires a multifaceted approach. Building owners and designers must prioritize sustainability and efficiency in all aspects of the building process, from the initial design phase through to ongoing maintenance and operations. This requires collaboration and buy-in from all stakeholders, including building owners, designers, builders, and tenants. If we want to support a healthy planet then the goal really is regenerative buildings which produce more than they extract and provide positive impacts for our environment and community.
All of this requires that we must start now to do as much as we can, as building owners, designers, builders and tenants to reduce buildings’ environmental impacts and contribute to a sustainable future.