Annual buildings list shows a doubling of ZNE projects in U.S.

The number of zero net energy (ZNE) projects nearly doubled from 2014 to 2016 from 213 projects to 394. These include buildings with ZNE-Verified performance, ultra-low energy buildings with efficiencies on par with ZNE projects, and emerging projects with a stated goal of achieving ZNE. Emerging projects typically are under construction or do not yet have 12 months of energy use data at full occupancy. The growth is an indicator that ZNE building performance is becoming a more common goal among owners and design  teams. Other trends include:
  • A doubling of private ownership of ZNE projects from 2014 to 2016, now comprising 50% of all buildings.
  • California, Oregon, New York, Massachusetts and Florida lead in numbers of projects although 40 states representing all climate zones now have an emerging or verified building.
  • Emerging buildings represent a more diverse set of projects in size, type and location indicating that owners and design teams are moving beyond the early models of smaller buildings (less than 25,000 square feet) in temperate climates.
  • Favorable policies are driving zero net energy projects in leading states and among government agencies
Designers, architects, building owners and professionals are invited to publicize their
commercial projects through the Getting to Zero Building Registry , adding to the growing momentum for ZNE buildings and low-energy buildings that demonstrate superior energy efficiency. The database offers industry professionals a chance to learn from their peers and colleagues through in-depth case studies of successful projects. Projects, once vetted, can be included in our published lists
Cities get help to prioritize energy upgrades, improve codes and policies that drive better building performance
In most cities, the energy code is the primary way of regulating building energy performance. And while code advancements have greatly increased new building efficiency, codes have a limited impact on existing buildings. Furthermore, the influence of energy codes ends before the building is even occu pied, so they have limited impact on actual energy use over the life of the building. As jurisdictions begin to grapple with this issue, they are coming to recognize that their own publicly owned portfolio of buildings represent an opportunity to both reduce energy use and to demonstrate leadership in achieving broader municipal sustainability, emissions, and performance goals.

With a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and funding from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, NBI and partners Maalka and EcoEdge have developed a program to help municipalities understand the energy performance of their building portfolio and address gaps in energy policy related to buildings. 

Lighting demand for indoor agriculture expected to explode

Indoor agriculture energy usage is projected to grow substantially over the next several years, driven in large part (but not entirely) by the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis. Seven U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis already, with more states likely to follow. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use. This rapid shift in many parts of the United States is driving much of the nation's energy load growth. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council projects that indoor cannabis growing operations alone will add as much as 300 average megawatts by 2030 in the Pacific Northwest. That is equivalent to 1.5% of total regional electricity demand. In Colorado, Xcel energy says 45% of its load growth is due to indoor cannabis cultivation operations. 

In general, grow lights are completely exempt from building codes and efficiency standards. NBI drafted and proposed the first standard at the national model code level for the efficiency of grow lights in agriculture. But when we start talking about standards we have to consider metrics: how do we measure the energy efficiency of a light?

Commemorating Earth Day

April 22 marks Earth Day and NBI is celebrating its recent designation as one of the top 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon by the Oregon Business Magazine.  We are proud of our work to drive better energy performance in buildings which are responsible for 30% of global carbon  emissions--a figure that could reach 50%  by 2050. 

Better energy efficiency in buildings represents the best near-term opportunity for reducing climate-changing carbon emissions, according to a C40 Cities/ARUP study, "Potential for Climate Action." T he study identifies over 2,000 first priority actions for cities that would have the highest impact on climate change. "This includes actions from eight city sectors; an enormous 66% of them are within the Buildings sector." 

NBI partners with DOE on zero energy schools; helps recognize California's K-14 leadership 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched its Zero Energy Schools Accelerator late last year in order to drivemarket adoption of zero energy performance in schools. NBI is supporting the program as a partner and recently teamed with DOE on a Zeroing in on Schools Workshop prior to the Getting to Zero National Forum last fall. The day-long event brought together leading districts and technical experts to share the lessons learned so far. As a partner in the program, NBI is leveraging its extensive work advocating for zero energy schools including a new set of case studies that describe model examples of successful school projects.  

By NBI's count, 88 school buildings have verified zero energy performance, are operating at ZNE efficiency levels, but do not have onsite renewables, or are working toward a ZNE goal. Schools have been identified as an early adopter of zero energy goals and no place is this more apparent than California which is home to 34 of those verified or emerging projects. Leaders in this transformation of K-12 and community colleges in the Golden State, were recognized last fall during the inaugural ZNE School Leadership Awards. The honors aimed to showcase the people, firms, buildings and districts that are driving this new standard for school environments and were given on on behalf of the California Investor owned Utilities Prop 39 ZNE School Pilot Program. Nine exemplary individuals, project teams and school districts received awards.

Trainings help build knowledge and design capability that is driving ZNE in California

California is the undisputed leader in zero net energy (ZNE) buildings with ambitious goals for achieving the performance standard in residential and commercial buildings in the next two decades. The state's investor-owned utilities and and state agencies are working to help policymakers develop ZNE ordinances, building owners to understand the benefits of these ultra-low energy projects, and design teams to successfully achieve ZNE performance through a series of workshops planned in 2017. 

With a special emphasis on addressing the existing building stock, six workshops on achieving zero net energy in  existing buildings  will be held. Four specialized workshops for schools and two addressing how building portfolio managers can improve their own building stock and catalyze action on privately owned existing buildings with in their jurisdictions. Local government  representatives will have two opportunities to gain understanding on how to achieve climate goals through municipal building benchmarking and portfolio analysis, ZNE pilot projects, encouraging ZNE market leadership through recognition, ZNE codes and polices, financial incentives, and other tactics.

For more information on dates and locations, visit

On demand webinars now available: ZNE and deep energy retrofits
NBI's series of Getting to Zero webinars are available on demand at These sessions feature experts in the planning, financing, design and operations of ZNE buildings and spotlight the best sessions from the Getting to Zero National Forums. The experiences of these early adopters provide compelling case studies of the drivers and outcomes of their work. In addition, three new webinars held share the planning strategies and best practice in design and technologies to achive a successful deep energy retrofit project-a building that achieves at least 30% energy savings. These sessions were offered in partnership with National Grid and held throughout 2016.
NBI has been named one of the top non-profits in Oregon
New Buildings Institute is proud that we have been named one of the top 100 nonprofits to work for in Oregon by Oregon Business magazine. We were ranked #25 under "Small Organizations: Fewer than 20 Oregon employees." 

Don't miss these partner events
Center for Climate Protection
Business of Local Energy Symposium
May 5, 2017, Hyatt Regency in Long Beach
Green California Summit and Exposition
Greening the Golden State, v 2.0
April 26-27, 2017