Establishing a Plan for Net-Zero Buildings
Regardless of the category of the building, an NZEB must offset energy use with renewables. This requirement is not a mandate to run out and buy a fleet of photovoltaic panels or install wind turbines in parking lots. For existing facilities, managers have a better way to begin getting on board, and its roots lie in best practices for energy efficiency that managers know well:
Measure and benchmark. How is your building's energy efficiency?
Reduce use. Start with the simple things. Leverage energy-management policies and communication channels.
Improve efficiency. Look at your building controls for the best energy-savings opportunities. Install more energy-efficient equipment and systems when renovating and retrofitting. For large renovations, incorporate technologies such as ground-source heat pumps, combined heat and power systems, more efficient windows, more efficient lighting, and plug-load management.
Invest in renewables. Now that you have reduced consumption and are managing the building and systems efficiently, how much energy generation do you need to offset consumption? What renewable offset sources are available?
Net zero is getting closer all of the time. As part of a larger plan to ensure reliable access to energy, individual buildings need to be on board. The key for maintenance and engineering managers is to start now by incorporating net-zero concepts into their energy-management plans and facility-performance metrics.
Laurie Gilmer — Laurie Gilmer is the vice president of facility services at Facility Engineering Associates (FEA). She leads FEA's facility asset management, building energy management, and sustainability services. Laurie is a published author, and co-authored the second manual in the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) sustainability How-To Guide series, EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Laurie is a member of ASHRAE and IFMA and is chair of IFMA's Sustainability Facility Credential scheme committee.
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