Zero energy buildings
Photo credit: New Buildings Institute, “2016 list of zero net energy buildings.”

From heating and cooling systems to lighting and appliances, buildings generate more than forty percent of all carbon pollution in the United States.

But Ralph DiNola, CEO of a nonprofit called the New Buildings Institute, says it does not need to be that way.

DiNola: “A zero-energy building is an ultra-low-energy building that produces as much energy as it consumes on a net annual basis.”

He says anything from a small home to a large corporate complex can be designed to achieve this net “zero-energy” goal.

These buildings typically include lots of natural light, ventilation, and thick insulation so they require as little heating, cooling, and artificial light as possible.

The energy that is needed is produced by solar panels or other on-site sources of clean energy.

As cities and states strive to lower carbon emissions, many have set net-zero energy goals. For example, California plans for all new residential buildings to be net zero by 2020, and all commercial buildings by 2030.

DiNola: “This absolute target helps people to make a quantum shift in the way they think about, design, build, and operate buildings. So it becomes a really important goal for achieving climate targets.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Daisy Simmons

Daisy Simmons is a freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in research-driven storytelling. In addition to contributing to Yale Climate Connections since early 2016, she also...