by Nikki Fotheringham

 The goal of net zero design is to create a structure that utilizes the same amount of energy as it produces to promote sustainability and a cleaner world. Net zero buildings balance the scales through a combination of energy conservation and the installation of renewable energy sources. With the technological advances in renewable energy over the past few years, net zero energy buildings are still an ambitious goal for designers but are increasingly attainable. Here are some tips on how to design a building that is zero net energy.

Renewable Energy

Net zero buildings offset their electricity expenses using renewable energy. Solar power is the popular choice because of increasingly efficient solar panels and affordability, but wind is also utilized. Renewable energy is great, not only to save costs, but it also improves a company’s triple bottom line.

Thanks to an 84% drop in solar battery prices since 2010 and an 89% drop in solar panel prices, solar is cheaper than ever. The federal government offers tax incentives for solar and wind systems, which could further reduce costs.

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Building Design

Heating and cooling a building accounts for 28% of the energy consumption and is the one place design can help. Your building envelope consists of the roof, walls, foundation, windows and doors. By designing a building with an envelope that seals the structure, you are able to better prevent cold exterior air from entering the building in the winter months while keeping cool, air-conditioned air in during the warmer months.

Another important feature of net zero design is passive solar, which takes advantage of the sun’s heat to augment the winter HVAC system. Large windows on the south-facing side of the building let in the sun’s heat during cold months. Concrete, brick, tile and stone are used to create a thermal mass—absorbing heat during the day to radiate back into the building at night.


The HVAC industry is becoming more sustainable and installing an HVAC system that is Energy Star-rated will help you achieve zero net energy status. Your HVAC system will consume the most energy in your building. Energy Star is a government-approved rating system that allows consumers to pick energy-efficient products that help conserve energy and save money.

Energy Efficient Appliances

In order to reduce energy consumption, your net zero building should utilize energy-efficient appliances. Rely on the Energy Star guide to inform your choice of everything from ceiling fans to lighting options. Building engineers and contractors often use Building Energy Modelling (BEM) software to balance your energy production with consumption once your appliances and building envelope information are available.

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Zero Net Energy 

To achieve net zero energy status, you need to reduce consumption through energy-efficient appliances, an efficient HVAC system and a building envelope that prevents energy loss. Once this is achieved, the energy required for the building to run will be provided by renewable sources. 

Not only does net zero energy show your societal goodwill, but it also reduces company costs and increases profitability. See how Therma can partner with you in your zero net energy building design.