NREL experienced a significant increase in employees and facilities on our 327-acre main campus in Golden, Colorado over the past five years. To support this growth, researchers developed and demonstrated a new building acquisition method that successfully integrates energy efficiency requirements into the design-build requests for proposals and contracts. We piloted this energy performance based design-build process with our first new construction project in 2008. We have since replicated and evolved the process for large office buildings, a smart grid research laboratory, a supercomputer, a parking structure, and a cafeteria. Each project incorporated aggressive efficiency strategies using contractual energy use requirements in the design-build contracts, all on typical construction budgets. We have found that when energy efficiency is a core project requirement as defined at the beginning of a project, innovative design-build teams can integrate the most cost effective and high performance efficiency strategies on typical construction budgets. When the design-build contract includes measurable energy requirements and is set up to incentivize design-build teams to focus on achieving high performance in actual operations, owners can now expect their facilities to perform. As NREL completed the new construction in 2013, we have documented our best practices in training materials and a how-to guide so that other owners and owner’s representatives can replicate our successes and learn from our experiences in attaining market viable, world-class energy performance in the built environment.
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It is still early in the collection and analysis of energy performance data, but it is already clear that high-performance commercial buildings—some "almost net-zero buildings"—can be constructed cost effectively, providing productive environments for occupants, reducing operating costs, and enhancing the competitiveness of commercial properties.
This paper describes how net-zero energy buildings will produce, during a typical year, enough renewable energy to offset the energy they consume from the grid.
This conference paper discusses four well-documented definitions of net-zero energy: net-zero site energy, net-zero source energy, net-zero energy costs, and net-zero energy emissions, along with pluses and minuses of each.
This paper introduces a classification system for net-zero energy buildings (ZEB) based on the renewable sources a building uses.