Experts are paying more attention to energy efficiency in new construction projects. This is due to the dramatic rise in energy prices across the globe and a growing concern about climate change. Many highlight concerns stemming from transportation; however, commercial buildings are actually the greatest consumer of energy in the US. The top energy-consuming building categories used about half of the energy consumed by all commercial buildings in 2012, and they include: shops (15%), offices (14%), education (10%), healthcare (8%), and lodging (6%). Different building types have unique energy needs, but as a whole, space heating accounted for about 25% of the total energy used in 2012. 
Electricity and natural gas are the most common energy sources used in commercial buildings. Most individual buildings have their own heating and cooling systems. However, there are district energy systems that supply heating and cooling to groups of commercial buildings. When many buildings are close together, such as in a city, having a central heating and cooling plant that distributes steam, hot water, or chilled water to multiple buildings is sometimes more efficient. District energy systems may also produce electricity along with heating and cooling energy. District energy systems generally use fossil fuels (coal, fuel oil, or natural gas), although some use renewable sources of energy (biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind energy).
What’s a Net-Zero Building?
New technologies allow improved energy efficiency practices, cutting costs and reducing environmental impact. Additionally, renewable energy sources are being implemented in buildings of all types. These lessen dependence on fossil fuels, lowering operational costs and reducing carbon footprints. These developments have produced the concept of the net-zero energy building, which is a type of building using the latest energy-saving technology, like smart lighting systems, and produces in a year the amount of energy a traditional building uses during the same period. Listed below are ways net-Zero buildings conserve energy:
- Generates Renewable Energy: Technologies now exist that let buildings generate power on-site. By designing a building to be efficient, it’s far easier for renewable sources to meet power demands. The most common on-site renewable energy sources are solar water heating, photovoltaic systems, and wind turbines. Biomass can also be used to create thermal energy from wood or agricultural waste. These technologies can heat water or control building climate. Companies must focus on renewable energy sources that are cost-effective and readily available. Construction should also take system maintenance costs into consideration. Various technologies have different life-cost analyses and may be more or less effective.
- Improves Energy Efficiency: Improved energy efficiency is the fundamental, underlying principle of net-zero construction. it’s usually also the most cost-effective part of the project. The more efficient a building’s consumption, the less need to use the grid’s nonrenewable sources. Additionally, on-site renewable energy will need lower output. Energy efficiency strategies include using air barrier systems, sun control, shading devices, and high-performance envelopes. They also include passive solar heating, water conservation technologies, natural ventilation, energy-efficient windows, and daylighting (the controlled use of natural light). These technologies help reduce building energy loads until they can be met by renewable sources. Additionally, technologies like electric light controls, geothermal heat pumps, energy-efficient lighting, and high-performance HVAC all use less energy and improve efficiency.
- Uses Renewable Energy Credits: It’s possible to access renewable energy sources off-site, which is often an attractive choice for new projects. How this works can depend on the area and local laws. If a site has limited space, it’s possible to place renewable energy systems at another location. This usually works by allowing users to buy renewable energy credits. This means their energy integrates into the power grid and offsets their site’s use of fossil fuels. The way these credits work can vary greatly by region. But they often cover the cost of building and maintaining renewable facilities. This makes them an appealing choice for many new to the net-zero model.
- Utilizes the Energy Grid: Most net-zero buildings remained connected to the energy grid like traditional sites. This allows nonrenewable energy sources when renewable sources cannot meet the minimum requirements. In many areas, if these sources produce more energy than necessary, it transfers into the power grid. In other cases, overabundance of energy is stored and used on-site. Depending on factors like what technologies are used, how much energy a building requires, or what area a building is located in, different times of the year may require more or less energy consumption. Surplus energy benefits the building later on, because it provides energy during periods of higher demand, which leads to a net energy consumption of zero.
Future of Net-Zero Buildings
Net-zero building principles can be applied across industries and construction projects. Industrial, commercial, and residential buildings can all be optimized for energy efficiency and on- or off-site renewable energy. There’s great diversity in the application of renewable and efficiency technologies. This varies by building type, size, local climate, architectural styles, and more. The Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (DENREL) is pushing for affordable net-zero energy homes and commercial buildings. Its goal is the mid-2020s, putting current construction projects with net-zero principles ahead of the curve.
Syrma: Smart Building Supporter
Our team cares about conserving energy and other resources. Over the years, we’ve designed and manufactured many products that can be used for smart buildings, like smart water meters. For example, we recently built a smart system that allows people to operate their lights, such as turning them off remotely or dimming them, via a mobile app. We also built an uninterruptible power source (UPS) system that provides buildings with backup power for modems during outages. This system allows companies to remotely monitor their service and to send alerts when a battery is running low.
We’re excited to be manufacturing eco-friendly products, as well as for being certified as a Green-Rated Supplier on sustainability by one of our primary clients, a leading international electronics corporation ranking among the Forbes Global 500. Several of our other clients have been likewise impressed with our strong environmental record, indicating that they want to do more when it comes to helping preserve our environment.
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