Energy Dept. Defines ‘Net Zero Building’


In a move aimed at bringing together the building community and promoting clarity, the U.S. Department of Energy has issued a common definition for “net zero energy” or “zero net energy” building.

The department said the language, reported in A Common Definition for Zero Energy Buildings, resulted from an extensive stakeholder engagement process conducted over the past year and a half, according to an announcement made Thursday (Sept. 17).

The 22-page report states that a “Zero Energy Building” is “an energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.”

The common definition also applies to campuses, portfolios and communities, the DOE said.

DOE’s report also offers important guidelines for measurement and implementation, specifically explaining how to utilize the definition for building projects.

Growth Sparks Need

Growth of the zero energy building sector has highlighted “a lack of clarity and consistency across the industry on key definitional issues that increasingly were the source of market confusion, underscoring the need for DOE [in collaboration with the National Institute of Building Sciences] to help develop a commonly accepted definition and approach,” according to the announcement.

The number of zero energy buildings doubled from 2012 to 2014 across 36 states, DOE said, citing the New Buildings Institute.

Many groups and organizations have cheered the Energy Department for taking the lead to define the term for the industry.

For instance, David Terry, executive director of National Association of State Energy Officials stated, “For too long, uncertainty in the market place around this issue has been a barrier to many private and state efforts in the move toward Zero Net Energy buildings.”

The President of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) also commented that the DOE’s work to define the term is “vitally important to the industry and nation as a whole.”

“From designing the next generation of energy-saving buildings to making our communities healthier and more vibrant, the 86,000 members of the AIA shape our future through their work,” she said. “The quality of this future is wholly dependent on sustainable, resilient buildings that reduce the nation’s reliance on non-renewable energy sources.”


Tagged categories: Education; Energy efficiency; Good Technical Practice; Government; Green building; Green design; North America; U.S. Department of Energy

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.