Photo credit: The Bullitt Center
Verdical Group’s sold out Net Zero 2016 Conference, the largest net zero building design conference in the country, was hands-down the best yet. Not just because of the world-class lineup of speakers and exhibitors that captivated a packed SoCalGas Energy Resource Center in Downey, California. Not simply because all of the attendees seemed to leave the event with ambitious smiles on their faces, ready to venture out into the world to make their own mark on a net zero future. It wasn’t only due to awe-inspiring presentations such as “Net Positive Building Design for Higher Education” by Miller Hull architect Brian Court. No, the greatest aspect of the conference was the “Perspectives on Net Zero,” panel that convened gas, electric, and water utilities, municipalities, and a visionary nonprofit (the International Living Future Institute) to discern what a net zero future would look like.
How did each representative present their view on a net zero future? Below, the panelists’ various perspectives surrounding net zero energy and water will be reviewed. Based on their discussion, it’s possible to envision a future where net zero building performance is possible.
Photo credit: CA.gov & Damon Winter
Why is California so sustainable? Well, necessity really.
At first glance, California is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the country, with a whopping 353 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted in 2013 based on EIA reports. Taking a closer look at the per capita emissions, however, we can see that California is actually one of the lowest emitters of carbon dioxide, with only 9.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person compared to the national average of 16.7 metric tons per person. Interesting? In fact, according to state statistics California is 48th in the nation in per capital energy consumption, 2nd in net renewables, and 1st in solar and geothermal. California is leading the way in terms of energy efficiency and clean energy.
Photo credit: Zaha Hadid Architects
The Sci-Fi Vision to Push Us Further
Sometimes, science fiction gets it right. Total Recall, one of Arnold’s first slam dunk movies, predicted full body scanners before they were the norm at airports (you may know them as x-ray “backscatter” machines). Blade Runner, released in 1982, introduced video calls to moviegoers. Now we have Facetime, Google Hangouts, Skype, and who could forget Snapchat, where we can even communicate with one another while wearing weird virtual masks. It’s great to see how old movies have unintentionally informed modern technology. But, watching modern Sci-Fi movies and wondering whether or not they will accurately depict the future of humanity can be a little worrisome for some. One recent flick, Midnight Special, has an ending (spoiler alert) that should not trouble anyone, but instead be an inspiration for how our built environment should look in the future.
Photo credit: JE Dunn
Building Within the Site
Before jumping into all of the numerous ‘Net Zero’ definitions that exist for one simple idea, lets go back in time briefly to examine how efficient home design has influenced one aspect of this famous buzzword today. Germany (with the help of Lund University in Sweden) was first to coin the design for an ultra energy-efficient home—the “Passivhaus.” The idea, still relevant today for all net zero energy structures, is to build a home or building in such a way so that the need for artificial heating and cooling is severely reduced. But how does a builder accomplish this?