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Net-Zero Energy Office – What Will the Transformation Entail?

net-zero-energy-officeWhat if there was a way to eliminate all of your company’s monthly energy bills?  Would you be interested?  Net-zero energy buildings are becoming popular because they generate all the energy they need, while creating very small carbon footprints.  Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?  Let’s take a closer look at how you can make this happen for your facility.The first step of this transformation is to determine how much energy your office really needs.  Start by cutting out all unnecessary, and sometimes unnoticeable, forms of energy consumption.  Request that your employees shut down their computers at the end of the day instead of just putting them in sleep mode; set the thermostat to adjust the temperature once everyone leaves; take advantage of natural lighting where possible and motion sensors where you see fit.

Once you complete this step, you’ll be able to see just how much energy your facility needs to generate in order to achieve net-zero status.  This is where the transformation could get tricky.  If you do not own the building, you may need to talk to your landlord and discuss the possible options.  If you do not have enough available space, simply pick and choose the options that will be most beneficial and realistic for your facility.

Solar is a popular renewable energy source that many businesses choose to install.  In some instances, wind energy could be another viable option.  Solar panels and wind systems will be able to provide a large amount, if not all, the electricity your business needs.  With current tax rebates, this may be more reasonably priced than you expect.

Tinting your windows with a thermal barrier will help maintain the internal temperature by significantly reducing any unwanted heat gain.  Double-insulated windows will also reduce any heat loss that typically occurs during the cooler months.

Harvesting rainwater is a fairly new aspect of net-zero energy buildings, but will become popular in the future.  Collecting, filtering, and reusing rain water for things like irrigation and flushing office toilets could save a considerable amount of money on your water bill.

If you’re feeling ambitious with this project, consider looking into other detailed options like geothermal HVAC, electric vehicle charging stations, extensive recycling programs, and tankless point of use water heaters.

As a real life example, the LPL Financial building by Hines is planned to be the largest net-zero energy building in America.  Their press release states, “The building design incorporates a highly efficient under-floor air system, advanced curtain wall materials and other features that reduce the energy required to operate the building.  The fuel cells, acquired from Bloom energy, will generate approximately 5.0 million KWh of electricity annually, which is above what the building will consume.”

If your business does not have the resources to complete a project of this size, don’t despair.  Do as much as you can to become more energy efficient, and although you may not see a zero balance on your next energy bill, you certainly will see a difference.

Sarah Battaglia
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

Sarah can be found on LinkedIn and Google+.

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