Net zero energy buzz at world's largest green building conference

Matthew Grocoff

January 29, 2014

By: Matthew Grocoff, Green Renovation Expert

In: Green Living

I recently returned from the 2013 International Greenbuild Conference in Philadelphia. I said in my talk that "net zero energy is not a challenge; it's a choice." Imagine buildings that produce more energy than they use by harvesting free energy from the sun and wind.

For the first time in the conference's history, net zero energy began to take center stage. It was only a few years ago when I was giving the only talk at the conference on the topic of net zero energy. Now it seemed to be mentioned at almost every session and promoted by many manufacturers on the expo hall floor.

Why is net zero energy so important? Dr. James Hansen and his colleagues at Columbia University said that "stabilizing atmospheric CO2 and climate requires that net CO2 emissions approach zero." (read full report here)

This means simply that we must stop polluting the atmosphere with fossil fuels. They didn't say that near zero carbon dioxide pollution was a "suggestion." Rather they said it is a "requirement" if we want to maintain the climate to which we and all living things in our biosphere adapted.

In plain English, humans need a stable climate to survive. To have a stable climate we must find clean energy. Energy efficiency, clean energy, and net zero energy are not just nice ideas; they're a necessity.

The good news is that getting to net zero energy is proving easier than ever. We now have all the data, all the tools and all the financials to prove what's possible.

Greenbuild had more educational sessions than ever before on the topic of going zero. One session discussed net zero energy affordable housing in Philadelphia. Another showed case studies of several zero net energy projects including the Packard Foundation which is the largest certified net zero energy building to date. There was also a tour of The Ambler Boiler House, an adaptive reuse project has transformed a historic plant that used to make energy for creating asbestos and turned it into a creative new work space.

There are more homeowners than ever before who are aware of the possibility of owning a net zero energy home that produces on site all of the energy it needs. Companies like Wal-Mart, Google and the U.S. Army have all pledged to make their buildings net zero energy. Outside of Chicago, Walgreens is opening their first ever solar and wind powered net zero energy store.

There are now examples of net zero energy buildings in every price range, every climate, and in every size.

After Greenbuild, anyone who still doubts the possibility of net zero energy just isn't paying attention.

If you're interested, here's just a few of some of the many net zero energy projects highlighted at Greenbuild 2013:

net zero energy house
Photo credit to Matthew Grocoff, Greenovation TV

The Mission Zero House - this is my historic 113 year old Victorian home in Ann Arbor, MI.

net zero energy building
Photo credit to DPR Construction

DPR Construction regional office in Phoenix, Arizona

Packard Foundation
Photo credit to the Packard Foundation

Packard Foundation in Los Altos, CA


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