Net-Zero Buildings

Millie Stefanowicz
November 12, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2017


Fig. 1: Average energy consumption trends of residential and commercial buildings. (Source: M. Stefanowicz. Data from the EIA. [1])

Net-Zero Buildings are also known as NZB and are the future of design. Buildings are the largest single contributor to production of greenhouse gases. Reducing energy costs and resource conservation in everyday households is crucial in improving our environment. Architects and engineers are building and renovating homes nationally and internationally to be more efficient and net-zero. The current average energy consumption from January to May of 2017 for residential homes is 20,375 trillion BTU (2.15 × 1019 joules), and for commercial buildings it is 18,196 trillion BTU (1.92 × 1019 joules). [1] As shown in Fig. 1, the average energy consumption of residential and commercial homes has been decreasing. Government initiatives, Energy Star ratings, LEED certifications, stricter building codes, and the 2030 Challenge are all efforts that are pushing to reduce energy consumption in households.

Net-Zero Buildings

A net-zero building does not consume more energy than the renewable energy it produces. There have been many advances in building technologies to help push this initiative forward. Evaporative cooling, lighting and day lighting controls, ventilation, efficient heating and air conditioning controls, and renewable energy resources are all low-energy technologies and implementations to these buildings. [1]

The 2030 Challenge

Architecture 2030 issued the 2030 Challenge, which is calling all architects, contractors, and all building communities to pledge that all new buildings will be designed and operate carbon-neutral by 2030. The fossil fuel reduction target for 2020 is 80%, and 90% in 2025. [2] Some states and political figures have joined the movement. California mandated that all new home construction must meet the standards of the zero energy ready code by 2020. Washington State and other states have started to follow this movement also. In 2009, President Obama joined the challenge and called for all new federal buildings to follow the net-zero energy standards by 2020 and in use by 2030. [3] Along with the United States, other countries such as Germany have also been pushing to lower the energy consumption of buildings such as the energy-efficient design of the Passive House. [4]


The 2030 Commitment challenges the national and international construction industrys current methods and provides building communities with simple metrics and a standard framework to help firms think about specific design decisions and their direct potential impact on energy performance. There are currently many net-zero homes and apartments that are readily available in the United States, Canada and Europe. [5] Net zero homes will help owners save money on their energy bills while also reducing their energy impact on the environment.

© Millie Stefanowicz. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Monthly Energy Review, October 2017," U.S. Energy Information Administration, DOE/EIA-0035(2017/10), October 2017, Table 2.1, p. 29.

[2] B. Poppy, "Green Buildings Go Beyond Net Zero," Discover Magazine, 25 May 15.

[3] "Obama Expands Push Homeowner Renewable Energy Use,", Newsweek, 24 Aug 15.

[4] N. Raman, "Conservation at Its Best: The Passivhaus," Physics 240, Stanford University, Fall 2012.

[5] S. Hurt, "Energy Efficiency is a Must for California Buildings Moving Forward, Los Angeles Daily News, 28 Aug 17.