Net-zero Buildings have been getting a lot of traction for the past few years because of the negative impact of commercial buildings on the climate. In a landscape where natural resources are decreasing, and the cost of energy is increasing by the day, net-zero buildings are seen as a long-term sustainable solution that can be adopted worldwide.
Although the conversation around net-zero buildings is getting popular, designing such buildings still presents a challenge to most organizations willing to invest in the planet’s future. If you are interested in knowing how these buildings are designed, down below is an informational guide for you.
Features of a Net-Zero Building Design
Essentially, a net-zero building is a high-energy performance building that produces energy from renewable sources in equal or more amounts to what it consumes. The production of energy can be on-site or in a nearby place. Energy production and consumption are counted on an annual basis.
There are many features unique to the design of net-zero buildings. The main feature is the focus on decreasing the amount of energy needed by the building with the help of passive approaches such as using more efficient electric appliances and regulating the temperature of the building using natural heat or cooling.
Another key feature of net-zero buildings design is the use of orientation. Sunlight is used in two ways by NZB designers. Firstly, they get the maximum solar energy with solar panels. And secondly, they use natural sunlight to make the building lit.
Designing a Net-Zero Building
So far, designers have not been able to develop a step-by-step approach to designing a net-zero building. That being said, there are a few common strategies that can be used for designing NZBs.
- Passive Strategies
Passive strategies are those strategies that focus on minimizing the use of energy as much as possible. Commonly, passive strategies are developed before active strategies. We have already mentioned some examples of passive strategies, such as using high-efficiency appliances and using natural heat or cooling instead of using heaters or air conditioners.
A few other tools used in passive strategies are insulation and air sealing. Insulation includes adding a barrier between the interior part of the building and the exterior part of the building to trap heat and cool. Air sealing does the same job with a different method. In air sealing, the air is stopped from escaping through small cracks, doors, and windows.
Passive strategies are just one part of the picture. They reduce the need for energy consumption to a certain degree, but the buildings still need to produce energy from renewable resources.
- Active Strategies
Active strategies are nothing but a list of ways through which the building can produce renewable energy. Preferably, the energy production is done within the building premises – also known as on-site production. But if the designer is unable to come up with a design with 100% energy production within the building, one can also use a nearby for this job – also known as off-site production.
The most beneficial active strategy is the use of photovoltaics. In this method, light is directly converted into electric power with the help of various semiconductors. One solar panel can have multiple photovoltaic cells. All of the photovoltaic cells work at the same time to generate electric power.
Wind power, hydroelectric power, biomass, and geothermal power are some other sources of generating electric power. These methods are as renewable as the use of photovoltaics. But they are used less frequently as flowing wind, water, and other such natural resources are hard to find.
It is true that designing a net-zero building is not as easy a process as building any other modern building type. But the long-term results of such buildings make it worth investing in the design. Organizations that are facing challenges in their energy sustainability plans can consider consulting with reputable service providers.