Net-Zero Energy Buildings take the Fiction out of Science Fiction

Net-Zero Energy Buildings take the Fiction out of Science Fiction

Even with all the advances of high performance buildings, I still find the concept of net-zero energy buildings (NZEB) shocking and fascinating. The technology is here (thanks in part to NEMA member products), and it feels like a realization of the futuristic buildings in science fiction movies.

A few recent and upcoming NZEB projects that caught my eye:

  • Groundbreaking recently started on Texas’s Lady Bird Johnson Middle School, which aims to be the largest net-zero public school in the country. Energy production plans include solar, geothermal, and wind projects. I am curious whether the net-zero concept will extend to any school buses used. The district’s website and PowerPoint presentation includes pictures of the design and describes technologies that will be used. For example, horizontal light shelves will help direct light further into the building. The presentation cites daylighting as having a positive effect on students’ attitudes and school performance. If they really want to make a difference in attitude, I also recommend keeping Ethan Frome off the reading list.
  • Two companies say they’ve built Michigan’s first affordable net-zero home (no explanation on what counts as affordable, though).
  • UC Davis plans to create a net-zero energy community, called UC Davis West Village. One plan is use campus food waste as energy (so, don’t eat your broccoli?). It is wild to think about housing for more than two thousand people having net-zero capability.

Since these once futuristic concepts are becoming a reality, I would like my hoverboard now, please.

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