Net Zero Energy is on the Horizon for Federal Buildings

As the federal government pushes forward with energy efficient solutions, President Obama’s Executive Order, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, makes a huge leap towards sustainability goals by requiring federal buildings greater than 5,000 GSF and entering the planning phase in Fiscal Year 2020 to be designed to achieve zero net energy. A zero net energy (ZNE) or net-zero energy building (NZEB) is a building whose energy consumption is equal to that of the energy being created by renewable energy onsite.  In essence, these are zero emissions buildings capable of producing the same amount of energy as they consume through a mix of renewable source and other energy efficient solutions that reduce waste.

The federal government’s move towards net zero energy aligns with the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Utilizing renewable energy sources would have a significant impact on carbon emissions and would ultimately reduce the government’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The applicable parts of the EO are outlined below:

(i) ensuring, beginning in fiscal year 2020 and thereafter, that all new construction of Federal buildings greater than 5,000 gross square feet that enters the planning process is designed to achieve energy net-zero and, where feasible, water or waste net-zero by fiscal year 2030;

(ii) identifying, beginning in June of 2016, as part of the planning requirements of section 14 of this order, a percentage of at least 15 percent, by number or total square footage, of the agency’s existing buildings above 5,000 gross square feet that will, by fiscal year 2025, comply with the revised Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings (Guiding Principles), developed pursuant to section 4 of this order, and making annual progress toward 100 percent conformance with the Guiding Principles for its building inventory;

(iii) identifying, as part of the planning requirements of section 14 of this order, a percentage of the agency’s existing buildings above 5,000 gross square feet intended to be energy, waste, or water net-zero buildings by fiscal year 2025 and implementing actions that will allow those buildings to meet that target;