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Breaking Down Net Zero: Reality or Wishful Thinking?

 By Ashley Halligan, an analyst at Software Advice

www.bisem-usa.com Sustainable building is becoming more and more of a focus, both from a private organization sector and governmental perspective. Furthermore, net zero is becoming an eager approach to building and design initiatives–that is, net zero consumption–meaning that over the course of a year (the benchmarking period) a building has produced as much energy as it’s consumed. 

 It seems overly eager, but there are some considerable achievements happening coast to coast. Additionally, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires all federal buildings achieve net zero by 2030, and all commercial buildings by 2050. So, it’s become a largely expected achievement over the next few decades. 

 Using McCormick’s recent achievement of converting a 363,000 square foot distribution center to a net zero facility as an example, the Sustainable Manufacturing Manager at McCormick says, “The most important maneuver in a net zero makeover is to focus on energy efficiency first, reducing consumption–making a facility as efficient as possible.” Addressing inefficient operations and upgrading things like HVAC and lighting systems. 

 After the facility retrofits were made, McCormick had a series of photovoltaic solar panels (PV) installed that produced enough energy to equalize the consumption/production ration. 

 In the case of new building initiatives with the ultimate goal being to achieve net zero consumption, the experts suggest four major considerations to keep in mind throughout the design, construction, and post-occupancy stages: 

  • Pre-design initiatives and meetings should integrate the insights of all key people involved in a project including: stakeholders, board members, chief officers, bankers, designers, builders, and management team insists Anderson.
  • Implement precise cost-modeling early on in the project planning phase. Energy prediction can be difficult to accurately calculate pre-occupancy. Bisson says, “Energy modeling allows you to better figure out how to reduce cold air, absorb sunlight, and understand insulation.” 
  • Don’t miss financial incentives or funding opportunities. Some projects can benefit from state and/or federal funding or tax incentives. In fact, Bisson suggets, “You can build a net zero energy building–with state incentives–at very close to the same cost as traditional construction.”
  • There will be challenges along the way and regular oversight is essential. Performance can wander over time. Crawley reminds us, “It requires a commitment from the building owner and operator to ensure the design intent is carried out.”

Read the original story here to hear what the experts say about the future of net zero building. 


Ashley M. Halligan
Facility Management Analyst
Software Advice

(512) 539-0016


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