zero energy buildings features

For some people a Net/New-zero Energy Building is a building with a wind turbine or a large photovoltaic system over its rooftops. But that’s not the right way of seeing it.

Energy efficiency comes first. Net zero buildings are also buildings with very high energy efficiency standards, that is, buildings constructed to reduce their energy needs to very low levels.

These buildings produce all or nearly all their electricity consumption through conservation and by generating power from on-site photovoltaic systems (or from other renewable system).

Most Zero Energy Buildings are grid-connected. They can send as well as draw power from the public electricity grid.

The type of renewable system

Zero energy buildings require a renewable energy system, which – according to American and European approaches - can be “on-site” of “off-site”.

On-site renewable energy can sometimes be provided by the use of biomass: wood, pellets, agricultural and vegetable waste, and similar biomass products, used to provide space heating or water heating. Biodiesel and other biofuels may also be considered for heating purposes.

But that’s not the most typical solution. This one involves readily-available and replicable alternatives: solar water heating systems, geothermal energy (in very large buildings), small wind turbines (in rural settings), and most of all photovoltaic (PV) systems.

PV systems are increasingly competitive, especially in large scale projects, and is the most versatile and replicable alternative to fossil fuel sources of energy.

Off-Site Renewable Energy for Zero Energy Buildings

Zero Energy Buildings guidelines do not preclude the use of energy generated off-site. When circumstances make it advisable, the owners of the buildings may benefit from local or remote solar photovoltaic or wind system, or another renewable system.

According to the North American approach and the guidelines for Zero Energy Buildings, the buildings may buy green electricity instead of producing it – something that can be achieved through the purchasing of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).

Energy Efficient Features

See infographic below.

Smart design and stupid building construction

Elements such as the shape and size of the house and its rooms, or the floor plan, or the size of the windows and their placement, or elements like overhangs, solar orientation or landscaping are extremely important to achieve Zero Energy Building standards.

Designers – namely architects – should be able to combine these elements, with the more general features of energy efficient buildings.

Though simple in its basics, it contrasts with current practices and the incapacity of most designers to build comfortable and high energy efficient buildings, or their failure to advise and influence mainstream options. The rule – in conventional new construction and renovation projects – is still what we can call stupid building construction, which keeps running at high gear.


zero energy buildings features

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