Zero-energy homes grow in popularity

The Net-Zero Energy Coalition is carrying out the first attempt to catalog all of the zero-energy buildings within Canada and the United States.


Image credit: Maria Godfrida via

The organization has just carried out its first survey, finding that 6,177 residential units in 3,339 buildings across the two countries can be classed as “zero-energy”, which is defined as buildings that produce as much renewable energy as they consume, or could do so with minor modifications.

By far and away the leading state is California, which is home to 3,562 zero-energy buildings. Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut make up the rest of the top five. As for the leading city, Sacramento in California leads the way with 925 zero-energy units, followed by Davis, California with 892 homes, and Portland, Oregon with 318.

Shilpa Sankaran, Net-Zero Energy Coalition’s executive director, said the survey was important because it lets people know how the US and Canada are progressing in terms of residential zero-energy buildings, and the data can be used to track trends moving forward.

“The numbers show major movement toward zero beyond current expectations, which should enable the market to see the feasibility of zero energy residential buildings from a financial, technical and market perspective,” Sankaran explained.

The Net-Zero Energy Coalition points out that the construction industry is one of the main polluters in the world, responsible for 30 percent of all emissions, and so it’s important to make up for this by reducing building’s energy consumption.

“To meet the goals of the recent Paris climate agreement, the world must reach zero carbon emissions from fossil fuels in the urban built environment by about 2050,” said Ed Mazria, architect and CEO of the think tank Architecture 2030. “This can only be achieved if the building sector moves quickly to ensure that zero-net-energy or carbon neutral buildings become the standard design and construction approach.”

The good news is that this is likely to happen, with the construction of zero-energy homes set to increase six-fold by 2017, said Carter Scott, head of Transformations Inc., a green construction company.

“People want homes that are resilient, good for the environment, comfortable and cost effective,” Scott explained. “They can afford them because the mortgaged cost of the additional energy efficient features is less that what they save in monthly energy bills.”

The Net-Zero Energy Coalition points out that zero-energy home construction costs are actually on a par with those of conventional homes, with the only additional expense being the cost of the solar panels. Even so, with new leasing options available most buyers do not have to pay much more out of their pockets for zero-energy homes.

The survey was phase one of the Net-Zero Energy Coalition’s project. Phase two involves carrying out detailed case studies and posting these on an online database for public access to best practices.

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