The terms “energy independence”, “off-the-grid”, and “net-zero energy” tend to summon images of a rural setting where being off-the-grid simply fits the picture of remoteness and self-sufficiency.
Today, however, that landscape is changing. Designers, architects, builders, and owners are savvier than ever in finding ways to provide energy services, such as light, thermal comfort, and electric plugs, with less and less energy.
The prospect of a net-zero energy building is becoming more of a reality every day.
Right here in Gaithersburg, MD, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), researchers and designers have built and are testing a truly net-zero energy home. Through a set of energy efficiency, passive house, and renewable energy strategies, the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility produces at least as much energy as it consumes over the course of the year. Best of all, it looks like, feels like, and is used (via simulation) like a real home. Dr. Hunter Fanny, Chief of the Energy and Environment Division at NIST’s Engineering Laboratory, spoke about this test facility recently at the Montgomery County Energy Summit.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recently released a report on how energy codes are beginning to look at whole building design as a strategy to achieve net-zero energy. Montgomery County’s Department of Permitting has been looking at the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), an overlay code to support sustainable building design, and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is set to update in 2015 with strong energy efficiency requirements. We are slowly but surely marching to net-zero.
In the meantime, while we test our concepts and our codes push us ever closer to buildings that produce as much energy as they use, the U.S. Department of Energy has begun a program to promote and recognize Net-Zero Energy Ready Homes. Imagine: You’re scanning the ads and see a beautiful home for sale – it advertises “Net-Zero Ready, Just BYOR”. Bring Your Own Renewables!
Net-zero is a reality today, and it will become easier to achieve as we increase building efficiencies. For tips on how to reduce your energy use, visit My Green Montgomery’s energy tips!
Check out this video to learn more about the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility in Gaithersburg: