Zero energy offices are highly efficient commercial buildings that produce enough renewable energy to meet or exceed their energy consumption, making the energy created and energy consumed balance out to zero.

Energy-efficient design is the cornerstone of achieving zero energy in an office. The building can be designed to minimize energy use through daylighting, light-emitting diode fixtures, energy-efficient heating and cooling, operable windows that open and close automatically to take advantage of natural ventilation, and a tight building envelope. Energy conservation should also translate to plug and process loads, which are a significant part of office building energy use. Consider lower-energy office equipment such as computers, laptops, and audio-visual setups as well as and providing guidelines to occupants for limiting plug loads.

Renewable energy generation depends on the available resources of each office’s environment. While solar power is the best renewable resource for some offices, wind energy is more feasible for others. This means each office building will be designed with elements specific to the environmental challenges faced in its particular location as well as factors such as site, building use, and local code jurisdiction requirements.

These onsite renewables are scaled to provide power to each specific office building, which often requires more energy than a store, school, or home. Energy needs are determined based on whole-building site energy use, which includes process and plug loads.

Why Are Zero Energy Offices a Better Solution?

Zero energy office buildings can create healthy, high-performance work environments that allow occupants to be more productive. Through zero energy office buildings, companies can also demonstrate environmental leadership, which can encourage employee retention and impress potential customers.

The benefits of a zero energy office building include:

  • Increased employee satisfaction
  • Substantially reduced energy bills
  • Improved client approval
  • Enhanced leadership in environmental stewardship

For many companies, zero energy offices are a starting point that inspires management, employees, and customers to further reduce their personal environmental impact.

The interior of an office building, with a large office space of cubicles, including one man working at his desk in the foreground.

The Research Support Facility at NREL was designed with energy-saving appliances, recycled materials, and a daylighting system to redirect sunlight deep into the office space and utilize available light.

Dennis Schroeder / NREL