Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Kathleen Hogan joined representatives from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and state and local elected officials to celebrate the opening of the new zero net-energy residential test laboratory. | Photo courtesy of NIST.

Just a few miles north of the Energy Department’s Washington, DC, headquarters stands the nation’s first zero net-energy residential test facility. Located on National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Gaithersburg, MD, campus, the laboratory will demonstrate its ability to generate as much energy from renewable energy sources as it uses annually -- living up to the definition of zero net-energy.

At first glance, the two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath facility looks like a traditional house. While the structure is not intended for human habitation, computer simulations using software and mechanical controls will carefully mimic the activities of a four-person, energy-efficient household. Energy efficiency was carefully considered throughout the entire design, complete with running energy efficient appliances and lighting that are set to turn on and off at pre-determined times. Solar photovoltaic systems and solar water heating were included as energy generating technologies.

The structure will be used as a testing facility for both new and existing energy efficient technologies. The project will be a vital source of lessons learned to guide the housing industry as it builds homes that consume as much energy as they produce and help harness American ingenuity to commercialize and deploy cutting-edge clean energy technologies.

The facility was built with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Serving as a model to spur improvements in residential energy efficiency, the laboratory is a collaboration between the Energy Department’s Building America Program, the architecture and consulting firm Building Science Corporation, and NIST’s Engineering Laboratory and Office of Facilities and Property Management.

NIST conceived and managed the project, while the Energy Department’s Building America Program -- a source of innovation in residential building energy performance, durability, affordability, and comfort for more than 15 years -- provided architectural design, training, and construction management support for the project. Building America partners with industry, including many of the top U.S. homebuilders and retrofit contractors, to bring state-of-the-art building innovations and resources to market. “The NIST zero net-energy home research facility does a great job demonstrating that zero net-energy homes can be architecturally attractive while delivering outstanding performance,” says Sam Rashkin, Building America Team Lead and Chief Architect for the Department’s Building Technologies Program.

To track the progress and new developments of the new residential test facility, visit