It is Net Zero Buildings Week, and the Building Technologies Office (BTO) is celebrating by promoting the great work underway to advance our buildings toward a net-zero future. President Biden has made minimizing the emissions from buildings a priority as part of his plan to reach a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035. Key to reaching this goal is the development and adoption of net-zero buildings.

Net-zero buildings combine energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to consume only as much energy as can be produced on site. Although achieving zero-energy and zero-carbon buildings is ambitious, it is an increasingly achievable goal. If you are curious about what it means to be a zero-energy building, check out this short video.

The Department of Energy’s research, development, and deployment efforts are paving the way for a net-zero carbon economy, and the Commercial Buildings Integration program (CBI) is working diligently on the following accelerators, guides, and other resources that can help the U.S. make net-zero buildings a reality everywhere.

Taking a multi-building or “district” approach that leverages existing and future infrastructure can offer more cost-effective and scalable pathways to net-zero carbon. CBI led a three-year Zero Energy Districts Accelerator, partnering with district developers, planners, owners, and other key stakeholders to overcome challenges, refine the business case, and create the plans needed to achieve and scale zero-energy districts. The Guide to Energy Master Planning of High-Performance Districts and Communities was developed as part of this effort. This document highlights district-scale, high-performance strategies that achieve deep energy savings, increase affordability, improve resilience, reduce emissions, and foster economic development.

CBI has also made inroads with schools, recognizing that their overall operating expenses can be significantly affected by their energy consumption. To address this concern, CBI led a Zero Energy Schools Accelerator, which partnered with school districts and connected stakeholder organizations to demonstrate innovative technologies and approaches to reducing energy use in K-12 schools. A Guide to Zero Energy and Zero Energy Ready K-12 Schools outlines the steps to ensure that a school achieves its design goal and maintains its zero-energy status after it’s occupied and operating.

CBI is also leading an effort to identify, study, and scale technology solutions that have contributed to net-zero buildings through field validation. Four DOE national labs are examining net-zero-ready buildings in diverse parts of the country to better understand the performance of their buildings systems, how this contributed to the building’s carbon impact, and where else these systems may be valuable. This is a great example of an initiative that bridges the research, development, and deployment work at BTO to drive energy and carbon savings.

Stakeholders are not always aware of how feasible a net-zero target is for their building. CBI has partnered with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, the American Institute of Architects, the United States Green Building Council, and the Illuminating Engineering Society to create Advanced Energy Design Guides focused on zero-energy buildings. These free guides offer designers and contractors the tools needed to achieve zero-energy buildings. Current versions focus on zero-energy K-12 schools and small-to-medium-sized office buildings. A guide on zero-energy, multifamily buildings will be published later this spring.

While much of the zero-energy focus is on new construction, not all net-zero building efforts need to be achieved at the design and build stages. Asset Score, a national, standardized tool for assessing existing buildings and identifying opportunities to invest in energy-efficiency upgrades, now offers an ultra-high-performance building module that provides recommendations for making your commercial or multifamily facility zero-energy ready. Later this year, carbon metrics will also be available to help you prioritize improvements to reach your zero-carbon goals.

During this year’s Net Zero Buildings Week, BTO is spotlighting the growing demand for net zero and the efforts of CBI and its partners to achieve a more energy-efficient future. To learn more about how CBI’s tools and resources can help you reach your net-zero building goals, visit here.