New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced an ambitious plan to tackle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by retrofitting public and private buildings throughout the state. De Blasio’s plan strives for 80% reduction of GHGs by 2050, a target that, as The New York Times put it, “would be a truly impressive feat if he were actually able to make good on that promise.”
With this plan, New York is continuing its efforts to become a leader in energy efficiency and GHG emissions reductions efforts across the United States. Other states with similar GHG reduction targets include Massachusetts and California. One emerging strategy employed by states with emissions reduction targets is the zero energy building. Zero energy buildings (ZEBs) produce enough energy to offset their annual consumption, typically through the use of renewable installations. ZEBs are built using highly efficient building materials and technologies and often rely on methods such as daylighting to reduce energy consumption.
According to the recent Navigant Research report Zero Energy Buildings, growth in the market for energy efficiency in buildings is expected to be driven by regional and local policies. This is true both in the United States and internationally, where the European Union leads the way with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The EPBD requires new public construction to be zero energy after 2018 and all new construction to be zero energy by 2020. In addition, the EPBD requires individual member states to develop national plans for increasing the number of ZEBs.
California’s Title 24 building code aims to achieve all new residential construction as zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020, with all new commercial buildings achieving ZNE by 2030. In Massachusetts, utility- and state-funded pilots have helped to drive building energy efficiency. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources launched the Pathways to Zero Net Energy Program in 2014, designed to support ZNE building construction and facilitate market development.
With technology improvements and the growing availability of energy efficient building materials, policy has become the most important driver in prompting energy efficient retrofits and new construction. Although several states have adopted targets for building energy efficiency, the most relevant federal legislation is Executive Order 13541. The Order mandated that by 2015, 15% of existing federal buildings conform to energy efficiency standards and by 2030, 100% of all new federal buildings achieve zero net energy. Although sweeping national legislation requiring ZEBs for commercial or residential construction seems unlikely in the immediate future, federal incentives could prompt builders to pursue more efficient building and strive to make zero energy more common in the United States.
Tags: Energy Efficient Buildings, Energy Management, Smart Buildings Program, Zero Energy Buildings
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