In the world energy sector, buildings are a primary energy consumer. The building sector is accountable for a large portion of the overall energy consumption and total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. It makes the building sector one of the prime contributors to global warming and climate change. Global warming, climate change, and resource depletion have been the utmost concerns of many states. It has forced the world to reconsider energy usage and its efficiencies. Thus, many states have started decarbonising the building sector and developing policies toward low-energy and emission buildings. One of the promising methods of decarbonisation is the concept of Net-Zero Energy Buildings. But what are Net-Zero Energy Buildings? How does it help with the increasing problems of climate change and global warming? What are the methods for achieving this concept?
What Are Net-Zero Energy Buildings?
“Net-Zero Energy Buildings do not use fossil fuels and rely entirely on solar and other renewable energy sources to meet their energy needs.” (Lausten, 2008).
“Net-Zero Energy Building is a building that uses no more energy than is provided by the building on-site renewable energy sources on an annual basis.” ASHRAE(Kilkis, 2007)
The above definitions of Net-Zero Energy Buildings mean that these buildings are energy self-sufficient. They generate as much energy as they need or more. They have enough energy to offset any energy from outside sources from energy grids over the year. One primary method to achieve this is to use solar and other renewable energy sources.
The Importance of Net-Zero Energy Buildings
Due to the increasing problems of climate change and global warming, many states started decarbonising their existing buildings and implementing policies for Net-Zero Energy Buildings to mitigate these problems. With the depletion of fossil fuels, a primary energy source in the world, Net-Zero Energy Buildings play a critical role in solving these energy problems. With these, highly sustainable structures are created that offer improved ventilation and natural daylight that adds value to the property, being energy-efficient and applying green building technology.
How Can Architects Design Buildings To Generate As Much Energy As They Consume?
There are two design strategies involved in achieving Net-Zero Energy Buildings. The first is to reduce a building’s need for energy through energy-efficient measures. The second is to incorporate renewable energy and other technologies to meet the building’s demand for energy.
Here are a few things to consider to achieve Net-Zero Energy Buildings:
- It is critical to consider the climate, sun, wind patterns, temperature, and rain patterns of the building’s site. Sufficient site analysis and study are critical to reducing the building’s negative impact on the environment.
- Orientation is critical to achieving Net-Zero Energy Buildings since lighting and ventilation rely most on the orientation of the building. It is critical to have the building oriented in such a way allowing light and wind to pass through the building seamlessly. Solar panels also rely heavily on this as it works best when facing south.
Passive Design Strategies
- Passive Design Strategies are about minimizing energy usage while maximizing energy performance. These operate without using energy, thus helping to achieve Net-Zero Energy Buildings. These include using natural light, ventilation, and shading to control the temperature of the building and improve air quality.
- Sustainable materials are available naturally in the environment and made from recycled materials.
- These generate energy that can power entire buildings and sites. Some examples of this type of energy are solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal systems.
Efficient Equipment and Lighting
- Choosing high-efficiency equipment and appliances like lighting, refrigeration, HVAC, etc. helps reduce the need for electrical energy.
Eliminate Fossil Fuels
- Fossil fuels are mostly used for heating buildings, water, or cooking. Eliminating fossil fuels is one of the methods to achieving Net-Zero Energy buildings. Thus, using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels helps achieve this goal and helps toward climate change.
With the increasing population, people’s need for better comfort, and their undisciplined behaviours in using energy, the demand for energy in the world has increased significantly. These contributed to the increasing problems with climate change and global warming, especially since our primary energy sources are fossil fuels. That is why people have come up with the concept of Net-Zero Energy Buildings, as buildings are accountable for a large portion of the overall energy consumption and total greenhouse emissions worldwide. Residential and commercial buildings consume a large amount of energy since people spend most of their time inside these buildings. Thus, architects must use passive design strategies to have low-energy demand and use renewable energy sources to power the building without having to rely on fossil fuels. Everyone can contribute to changing the world for the better by having discipline when using energy. By turning off the faucet when not in use or unplugging unused appliances in our homes, these simple actions, when done by the majority of people, can have a huge impact on helping reduce the negative impact on the environment.
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