Zero Net Carbon

By now, many people are familiar with Zero Net Energy (ZNE) and California’s pursuit of the standard for new residential and commercial buildings in the next decade and a half.  While defining ZNE presents some challenges (see our recent blog post), work is already beginning to expand the concept to include the carbon footprint of a building’s energy as well.

One approach, Zero Net Carbon, was the focus of a recent presentation in Santa Barbara by Ed Mazria, founder of the 2030 Challenge.  Zero Net Carbon is defined as “a highly energy-efficient building that produces onsite, or procures, enough carbon-free renewable energy to meet building operations energy consumption annually.” It has the advantage of applicability for both new and existing building types, even those with limited opportunities for onsite renewable energy installations, for instance in urban environments.

Courtesy Sarita Relis

Courtesy Sarita Relis

According to a recent white paper by New Buildings Institute, a global population shift to urban areas means that cities currently produce 75% of global greenhouse emissions, a statistic that is likely to rise with increasing urbanization.  ZNC-focused building and retrofitting would achieve a carbon neutral balance, first through design strategies and energy-efficiency measures, then incorporation of onsite renewable energy systems and finally, procurement of locally produced renewable energy to meet a building’s remaining energy needs.

For more information, check out Architecture 2030’s ZNC page.


Editorial comment by Andy Pease:  Ed, yet another acronym? Really?  Just as the country is coming together for Zero Net Energy (ZNE), you have a new term, and now we all need to learn Zero Net Carbon (ZNC).   Frustrating!  BUT, you are right, of course; our real goal is action to address climate change on a massive scale, and the most direct way to track that for building energy is carbon.  So a new acronym? Fine, I’m on board!   Thanks, Ed. – Andy