Local governments & Zero Energy Buildings

In the next few decades cities will have to adhere to green building standards and to support and implement the construction of millions of new zero energy buildings (ZEB) while transforming the existing building stock into more energy efficient homes, offices, schools…  – a huge task for city governments and other local institutions.

But how to do it against a backdrop of constrained budgets and limited resources and public awareness?

Examples of local governments committed with Zero Energy Buildings (ZEB)

Cities are huge energy consumers; on average, homes and other buildings consume about 40% of the world’s energy, and are directly and indirectly responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Hence the importance of Zero Energy Building programs and local action to implement them and to curb the devastating effects of carbon emissions.

Vermont, Kentucky, Salt Lake City, Pima County or Washington DC… just to cite some North-American examples, are cities and local communities committed with Zero Energy Building projects, showing that it isn’t a distant and expensive green dream. Their examples can teach a lot to other communities and cities.

Obviously, it will be easier to carry out Zero Energy Building projects in states such as California, or in the European Union, or in Japan, or in some Chinese jurisdictions, where projects are already scheduled to take place.

Local ZEB policies

There are many policies that local governments can undertake to support and advance ZEB.

They include…

  • Developing energy building codes and standards, and net energy metering.
  • Creating awareness: information is critical and should involve residents and local communities in general, but also architects, designers, builders and professionals closely engaged with the construction sector.
  • Partnerships involving big institutions and companies – banks, electricity companies, retrofit providers, solar leasing companies…
  • Setting Zero Energy Buildings standards for government and public buildings: to create awareness and to demonstrate the advantages of the Zero Energy Building concept.
  • Identifying and supporting key sectors: schools, hospitals, some commercial buildings should be supported to achieve Zero Energy Building standards.
  • Encouraging and supporting local renewable energy systems located offsite, that is, beyond the boundaries of a single building. That’s critical for economies of scale.

Obviously, without more targeted programs and resources, with a wider scope, it’s very difficult to implement such policies.

That’s why it is so important to know the programs, tools and resources available. We give some examples below.

US programs

New Buildings Institute
Zero Net Energy Residential
Energy Design Resources
Better Buildings Program  

European Union

30 proposals for the energy transition of cities and towns (Energy Cities document)
EnergyCities - the European Association of local authorities committed to energy transition. It represents more than 1,000 towns and cities in 30 countries.
Covenant of Mayors, Seap Plus and Net-Com - a European movement involving local and regional authorities, committed to increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources. These organizations aim to meet and exceed the EU 20% CO2 reduction target by 2020.
Clipma - Training courses for municipal climate protection managers in Central Europe;
3ENCULT - energy efficient retrofits in historical buildings.
DIRECTION - project that aims at demonstrating how the use of very innovative and cost-effective energy efficiency technologies in new buildings.
Episcope – a project to make the energy refurbishment processes in the European housing sector more transparent and effective.
iNSPiRe -  producing systemic renovation packages that can be applied to NZEB.


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