Handout Zero Energy Buildings: Skilled Trades in Partnership

End goal: Zero Energy Buildings save energy, lower utility bills, help drive economy-wide carbon emissions to zero, and increase resilience in extreme weather events.

Terms and definitions for Zero Energy Buildings:

  1. ZEB = Zero Energy Building (annual building energy use <= annual on-site renewable energy production)
  2. ZEB = Zero Emission Building (federal definition clarification is happening now)
  3. NZE = Net Zero Energy (same as ZEB, can differentiate on-site vs off-site renewable energy)
  4. NPE = Net Positive Energy (annual building energy use < annual on-site renewable energy production)
  5. Carbon Neutral (the building is not responsible for carbon emissions due to its operations)
  6. “Net Zero” refers to the idea that on an annual basis, energy use is zero.  A stricter standard yet would be to design buildings for 24/7/365 zero carbon energy use.

Related terms for up-front (embodied) carbon

  1. Carbon Negative Construction: (building is designed and built with materials with negative carbon footprint.  (When all materials’ footprints are added, the building sequesters carbon.)
  2. Decarbonization: taking carbon emissions out of the entire life cycle life cycle of the building (or any process). Account for up-front, operational, and end-of-life emissions.

What does it take to build a ZEB?   (See links for examples and additional information.)

  1. Thick, well-insulated walls
  2. Triple or quad pane windows
  3. Superior air-tightness
  4. Dedicated energy-recovery ventilation (ERV)
  5. Solar panels and batteries
  6. Low embodied carbon materials
  7. Heat pumps
  8. Electric induction range
  9. EnergyStar appliances
  10. Electric vehicle chargers (best are bi-directional for V2H or V2G capability)
  11. Health-certified materials
  12. Water saving features

Certifications available:

  1. Phius Zero (Passive House Institute US and others require the following four certifications)
    1. DOE Zero Energy Ready (a good start, but better to put the solar on right away)
    1. Energy Star (again, a good start)
    1. EPA WaterSense (water efficiency matters too)
    1. EPA Indoor airPLUS (zero energy buildings are healthier!)
  2. Greenstar Zero Energy Certified                                                  Example in Dexter
  3. LEED Zero (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)    Example in Traverse City
  4. ILFI Zero Energy Certification                                                                 Example in Ann Arbor
  5. HERs score <=0   (net zero on RESNET Home Energy Rating System)    Example in Grand Rapids

Request for lawmakers: please sponsor, support, and pass legislation that does these four things:

  1. Electrifies Everything with renewable sources (wind, solar, and perhaps nuclear if cost effective)
    1. Storage is important at all scales: private, community, and grid-scale:
      1. Long Duration Energy Storage (LDES) can help at grid scale!
      1. Virtual Power Plants (VPP) can help at all scales!
      1. Vehicle to Grid (V2G) can help at fleet and residential scale!
  2. Improves building codes for energy efficiency.
    1. Ratcheting up HERs scores over time would help.
    1. Adopting Passive House as a statewide stretch code could help.  (It is the code in Brussels and the multifamily housing stretch code in Boston.)
    1. Putting together green building tax abatement or tax credits for building green and zero energy certified buildings.
  3. Promotes these important technology levers:
    1. Support the deployment of heat pumps for all space and water heating.  We are especially excited about low ambient air-source heat pumps (particularly those utilizing CO2 as the refrigerant).  Ground-source heat pumps also have a place, especially in larger buildings.
    1. Incent the development and implementation of carbon-free concrete and steel.
    1. Support a timeline for phasing out HFC refrigerants and phasing in natural refrigerants, especially CO2.  (For all HVAC, refrigeration, and appliances.)
    1. Incent regenerative agricultural practices, solar-ag integration, and re-wilding.
  4. Addresses these important sociological factors:
    1. Support initiatives that promote environmental justice
    1. Promote a transition to walkable and bikeable city centers and mixed-use neighborhood development. 
    1. Promote development of multifamily and mixed-income housing developments.
    1. Promote green jobs.  (Michigan is doing well.) 
    1. Promote sustainable economics ideas like that proposed in “doughnut economics.”