ZNE is a sexy phrase and thrilling concept, but setting the building sector’s sights on zero as the fix-all goal is raising notable concerns among critical stakeholders. This article outlines the tradeoffs of a ZNE framework for our future built environment and points to some alternative approaches to keep us on track to the ultimate goal of carbon reduction.
Photo Credit: Glumac Engineering
When reviewing a high-performance building, it is instantly apparent how much time, effort, and resources went into making the project so efficient. Knowing that nearly every aspect of building operation requires extensive amounts of energy, do you ever find yourself wondering how architects design such efficient buildings? A tool known as Whole-Building Energy Modeling (BEM) is where it all begins.
Photo credit: Michaud Cooley
“Energy modeling is a no-brainer for HOK…It’s like reading the MPG (miles per gallon) rating before you buy a car. It’s basic performance information every building investor should know.” Anica Landreneau, director of sustainability consulting at the global architecture firm HOK, was quoted saying this at a presentation she gave during the Better Buildings Summit in Washington, D.C.. The presentation covered—you guessed it—the benefits of energy modeling. But, just how important is this expensive, fancy computer software service? Won’t the engineers create an energy efficient building just fine without it?
Photo credit: Flanagan Engineering
An Approximation of Reality
According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, building energy modeling (BEM) is a multi-use tool that uses physics-based calculations of building energy consumption to analyze and improve building energy efficiency. Energy modeling can be used for design of new buildings, retrofitting of inefficient old buildings, and performance-path compliance with energy efficiency codes and standards such as ASHRAE 90.1. The list of uses for energy modeling grows every year, as software technology and usability steadily improves and allows for larger adoption. Currently, engineers and architects alike use it mainly for conducting energy analyses of 3D building models.