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Net Zero Energy Certification Launched

18 January 2012 | Posted By Jeff Cole 4,818 views No Comment

The International Living Future Institute, responding to market demand, has launched the Net Zero Energy Building Certification, the first program that provides third party certification of net zero energy performance. Building upon the success of the Institute’s Living Building Challenge (“LBC”) the new initiative is designed to address a number of market needs:

  • Projects close to achieving LBC certification, but unable, for whatever reason, to complete full certification, or achieve petal recognition, will be able to have their net zero energy performance certified.
  • There is a focus on energy performance in buildings, particularly within federal government agencies, leading to an emergence of net zero energy buildings that have no verifiable benchmark to certify under.
  • There is confusion in the marketplace about what net zero energy means, with many different definitions available.

According to Amanda Sturgeon, Certification Director of the International Living Future Institute, projects that register for Net Zero Energy Building Certification program will have a simple documentation process based on one-year of occupancy data. Projects are certified by providing their utility bills, and meter readings, and through an on-site audit. The Beauty petal from the Living Building Challenge is also a requirement.

The Living Building Challenge framework is structured as a series of petals, each with one or more imperatives, performance criteria that must be met. A number of these imperatives provide a framework for the net zero certification program.

  • Site Petal – Imperative 01- Limits to Growth. Net zero energy certified projects must be built in either greyfield or brownfield developments.
  • Energy Petal – Imperative 07 – Net Zero Energy. On an annual basis, all projects must use net zero energy. No combustion equipment or systems is allowed on site. Allowable renewable energy systems are limited to passive solar, photovoltaics, wind turbines, solar thermal, direct geothermal, water powered microturbines, or fuel cells powered by hydrogen generated from renewably powered electrolysis.
  • Equity Petal – Imperative 18 – Rights to Nature. Certified projects cannot block access to or diminish the quality of fresh air, sunlight, or natural waterways, for adjacent developments or any other member of society.
  • Beauty Petal – Imperative 19 – Beauty + Spirit. Project design must include architectural features intended, by the owner and designers, to delight.
  • Beauty Petal – Imperative 20 – Inspiration + Education. Educational materials need to be developed about the project, and the site must commit to being open to the public one day every year.

Amanda Sturgeon explains that a lot of interest in the Beauty Petal has come from project teams wanting to develop buildings that “express endurance in the hearts and minds of the occupants, not just durability”. Each project team develops its own perspective on what beauty means for a particular project and how it is manifest. The education imperative also allows for great variety in ways project teams can both educate others, about how they reached their goals, and articulate pride in their work.

The program is open for registration and can accept buildings that are early in the design process and buildings that have already been in operation. A single fee covers both registration and certification. Once the required post-occupancy documentation is submitted, the certification process will take around four to six weeks.

It is important to note that newly-built projects might need a good bit more time than the first twelve months of operation to document achievement of their net zero goal. Says Sturgeon: “the initial occupancy period is a very important time to evaluate performance and to tune the building”. There have been very different experiences among teams pursuing LBC certification. In one case, the project team found that they had overestimated cooling loads. As a result, cooling equipment never came on and they had invested in significantly more PV capacity than was needed.” Time is required to track and analyze performance and to develop and implement any required adjustments to the design, operating strategies, or occupant behavior.

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