Conversion to Clean Energy Is Serious

Zero Energy Homes & Buildings

There has been an ongoing shift in the past decade towards greener and cleaner methods of doing pretty much everything in our daily lives. Building and construction are no exception to this trend, and this sector of the economy is one place where an increased emphasis on green technology can be felt the most, and over time do the most good for the environment.

Green Engineering

 The latest push in green engineering is the so-called zero-energy building. Zero-energy means that the overall onsite production of energy is equal to the building’s consumption of energy, meaning that it consumes zero outside energy from potentially hazardous sources such as coal, or nuclear power. Of course, the engineering and building challenge to attain such a thing can be staggering, but the progress made in this area since the end of the century has been rather amazing.

New Construction

First, you should know that zero energy at the moment is really only an option for new construction, as the technology involved is only cost-effective when it is a planned addition from the very start of the design process.  Although it is technically possible to outfit older existing building to bring them up to code with zero-energy specifications, it is almost always cost prohibitive. Commercial roof restoration may be the one area where it can be cost-effective to go with the new cost-effective cool roof technology. Rather than tearing off and replacing an older roof, the roof can be restored at half the cost and be far more energy efficient.

Here are a few of the innovations that building designers have been putting in place to make their buildings zero energy:

Reliance on Solar Power:

Solar is by far one of the most important aspects of zero energy building. Because the sun provides an inexhaustible supply of heat and energy, it is the best environmental resource available for many of the functions of a building that used to rely on outside sources of energy.

There are two types of solar power used in zero energy buildings:

  1. The first is active solar power, which simply put is the use of photovoltaic cells arranged in an array to capture radiation from the sun and turn it into usable energy. In fact, there are hardly any zero energy buildings that don’t have a formidable solar power generation capability, which obviously has to be scaled in accordance with the size of the structure.
  2. The second type of solar power is passive, which means that the building is designed in such a way as to allow control of the internal temperature by using the heating properties of the sun itself. This can drastically reduce the overall energy consumption of a home, or an office building, and will go a long way in combination with active solar energy to reducing the building’s reliance on outside sources of energy.

Tax Incentives

The final thing that makes solar energy so critical to designing and building such a structure is the fact that most governments in the country, local, state and federal offer significant tax incentives to those who incorporate some kind of solar energy into their plans. Not to mention the fact that in many cases the purchase price of the solar panels themselves are highly subsidized.

Using Energy versus Conserving Energy

One aspect of zero energy building that is the subject of much debate is whether it is preferable to create more energy through alternative means without drastically changing consumption, or whether it is better to radically reduce waste, and then fill in the remaining energy needs with alternative sources. There is really no right answer to this question, as either way the building is still going to be using zero energy produced through environmentally harmful means; however, it’s always interesting to look at the arguments on both side of the debate.

Some Business Operation Require Energy Consumption

The only issue that arises from a drastic decrease in energy usage is that for many businesses, particularly those that have to maintain and service energy-intensive equipment for their day to day operations, there is no way they can reduce that usage by more than a token amount, and still operate at their current levels.

Homeowners Can Reduce Consumption

However, for a homeowner, reducing overall consumption is likely to be a better option, seeing as how it will end up saving more money in the long term.  Further, lifestyle changes that are required are generally not a huge imposition. Simple things such as using lower wattage light bulbs, and remembering to turn off appliances and other devices when they are not in use can go a very long way in bringing your home in line with these zero energy principles.