What A Net-Zero Ready Building Is and Isn't
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Don't Let Myths Stop You From Exploring Net-Zero Energy Buildings Pt. 2: Net-Zero Building Design Doesn't Have to Be DifficultPt. 3: Operations, Occupant Behavior and Plug Loads Can All Affect Net-Zero GoalsPt. 4: This Page
What is a Net-Zero Energy Ready Building?
As the name suggests, a net-zero energy ready building is one that is designed to be ultra-efficient, with the goal of being net-zero energy at some point in the future. For one reason or another, the building owner isn't able to afford the final steps, like a photovoltaic power plant, that would bring it all the way to official net-zero energy. So designing the building to be very energy efficient with the appropriate infrastructure to handle an onsite "power plant" is a good intermediate step.
As the cost of PV continues to decline, Paul Schwer, principal with PAE Consulting Engineers, says that he encourages owners to be net-zero ready.
"At some point," he says, "you can add PVs. But for now, make your building as efficient as possible, add value now in terms of smaller mechanicals." Sometimes, he says, owners get so excited they apply for incentives or find the extra money elsewhere and go ahead and add the PVs now.
Jamie Qualk, vice president with SSRCx, says he sees as net-zero energy ready as a major trend. "They're easier to do because the financial impact is lessened," he says. "If the desire is there, but the calculated payback is too long, this is a good Plan B. It keeps the door cracked, so that when net-zero energy becomes financially viable, you can do it."
— Greg Zimmerman