Getting to Zero 2012 Status Update

Though their numbers are still relatively small, so-called zero energy buildings -- ones that generate as much energy as they consume -- are on the rise in the United States.

A new report by the New Buildings Institute and the Zero Energy Commercial Building Consortium identifies 99 structures that can be deemed zero energy commercial buildings or zero-energy capable buildings, ones that are highly energy efficient and could be counted in the zero energy category with the addition of on-site renewable power generation.

The study titled "Getting To Zero 2012 Status Update: A First Look at the Costs and Features of Zero Energy Commercial Buildings" takes a look at the buildings, their types, locations, design strategies and costs.

Among their number, the research found K-12 schools, offices, university buildings, recreation centers, assembly halls and more.

Here are highlights of the findings:

  • Zero energy buildings exist in most U.S. climate zones.
  • While most are considered "small or very small buildings," larger and more complex buildings are being added to the mix.
  • For the most part, zero energy buildings are constructed with readily available technology. The key is an integrated design approach that takes into account building site, layout, envelope, and mechanical and electrical systems to achieve efficiency.
  • Data available on costs are too limited to be definitive, the report said. While "modeling studies indicate costs of 3 percent to 18 percent for energy efficiency features, depending on building type, size, climate and other variables," the few buildings that did report data "appear to show lower overall incremental costs than modeled estimates, possibly due to positive trade-offs with other features in the design and construction process," the report said.

The report, profiles of nine buildings, and several case studies of projects are available for free download at