7 Principles to Design a Net-Zero Building!
The climate crisis has been a hotly debated topic in recent years and terms such as carbon footprint, greenhouse effect, atmospheric aerosols, and many others, are already staples in our vocabulary. Another widely spoken term is “net zero”, or net zero emission, used as a goal for buildings in different industries and countries.
The world will need to zero net emissions by the middle of the century if it wants to have a chance to keep temperatures below 2º C. The construction industry is an important player in these emissions. The sector globally accounts for 36% of energy consumption, 38% of energy-related carbon emissions, and 50% of resource consumption.
For buildings, being net zero in terms of energy means, in simple terms, producing what can be consumed in a period of one year. According to WGBC, a net zero carbon building is one that is “highly energy efficient & powered by renewable energy sources on-site/or off-site, with any offsetting carbon balance remaining”.
A simple concept, but not so easy to implement. How is it possible to reach this goal with concrete actions during the design process and in the choice of solutions, materials, and products? Is it really possible to achieve this goal, or at least get closer to it for new builds and renovations? Let’s find out!
Here are 7 things to take into account to contribute to this global objective of energy consumption:
1. Bioclimatic architecture
Design projects connected to the local climate and context, by using natural light, while balancing thermal energy losses. Orientation, sun protection, and reflective materials in the right places allow us to passively take advantage of natural resources, according to the needs of each context.
2. Renewable energy
Buildings should be able to supply all their energy needs from low-cost, locally available, non-polluting renewable sources. Using photovoltaic panels or even using local wind systems. But it doesn’t mean that all buildings must be huge power plants. Energy efficiency is the key.
Source: Visual Capitalist
3. Equipment and lighting
A balance between generation and consumption reduces losses and improves the efficiency of the equipment present in the building. This means generating the same amount of energy with fewer natural resources or getting the same service with less energy, using high-efficiency installations.
Source: Maison ERE 132
4. Building envelope
A well-designed envelope is needed to make the best use of context. Based on the climate, the façade helps with solar consumption. increasing the energy efficiency of an envelope will imply a reduction in operational carbon, which is emitted during the use of the building.
Source: Energy Education
5. Windows and doors
The main role of openings is for the building’s occupants’ well-being as it brings in daylight and connection with the exterior; this illustrates the trend of large dimensions and high transparency. This way, openings are needed to optimize energy saving, and winter and summer comfort.
6. Eliminate fossil fuels
These are mostly used for heating buildings, water, or cooking. So instead of using gas or oil, prefer renewable sources. Depending on the context, heat pumps, and geothermal energy can be used, as well as electricity, from renewable sources such as solar, wind, or even hydroelectricity.
Source: Environmental and Energy Study Institute
7. Embodied carbon
Embedded carbon is the greenhouse gas emissions during extraction, transport, fabrication, and installation. Assessing the embodied carbon of an entire building requires access to carbon emission data for all materials and processes involved in a building throughout its life cycle.
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