Can Net Zero buildings bring an energy savings boom?

Reducing energy use in buildings has become a key priority, despite the efforts of many fossil fuel giants to stigmatise it. Today, thanks to a wealth of new technology there are many more options for achieving the net zero goals that have been set for modern buildings – and achieving an energy savings boom as a result.

Net zero by 2030?

There is the potential for almost all new buildings to consume zero net energy by 2030 thanks to a wealth of different measures, from better insulation to advancements in air conditioning. A building that consumes net energy essentially gives to – and takes from – the energy grid so that the eventual outcome equals zero use. The key to making this happen is going to be achieving it at scale so that the practices that support net zero buildings are widespread across the construction sector, and in every country globally.

How is scale likely to be achieved?

Different countries are taking on the challenge of net zero buildings in different ways – but there are also some common themes. A focus on electrifying everything is one way to help reduce the energy consumption of a finished building. For example, replacing gas-fueled furnaces and hot water heaters with electric heat pumps, which today are much more effective and efficient than they have ever been. The Passive Homes regime, which was pioneered in Europe, has a great deal to offer when it comes to achieving net zero buildings. This is focused on smart use of insulation, eliminating air leaks and using natural ventilation and daylight, which are free passive qualities. Other passive solutions include broad roof overhangs and louvers that protect windows from direct sunlight.

Saving and adapting structures is key

The quest for net zero building isn’t just about new construction but also saving and adapting existing structures. This is primarily due to the trend towards calculating embodied energy. Embodied energy is also one of the drivers for new materials such as mass timber, which is made of glued together strands of wood and is far more eco friendly.

What about an energy savings boom?

One of the simplest ways that any building will see energy savings is by removing anything from the premises that relies on oil or natural gas for fuel. Energy price rises have dominated the headlines over the past year and those properties that don’t rely on fossil fuel-derived sources are likely to suffer less where consumption and costs are concerned. Options such as comprehensive interior insulation, more of a focus on natural light and radiant floor heat  – all augmented by a solar array – also have a great deal of potential for cutting energy use. Then there is the cutting edge innovation making a difference. The chilled beam system, for example, is currently being tested as an alternative to conventional air conditioning in some buildings. It uses just a fourth of the energy of the conventional HVAC systems so the energy savings could be huge.

Net zero buildings are a priority in construction – and they have a lot of potential when it comes to creating an energy savings boom. At RG Group we are focused on Living Space, Retail and Commercial sectors, all of which have the potential to benefit from net zero innovation.

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