“Net Zero by 2030”

January 08, 2014

By Paul Lambert and Dan Mellinger,

I’m a facilities manager looking for ways to boost my energy efficiency knowledge, but just don’t have time for extended classes or courses. What’s a “quick hit” way for me to get up to speed?

MS, Addison County

Paul: You’re asking this question at a great time. From February 5th through the 6th, Efficiency Vermont will be holding its annual “Better Buildings by Design” conference at the Sheraton Conference Center in Burlington. As the region’s premier design and construction conference, it offers over 40 presentations by experts in residential and commercial construction for new and existing buildings. There will be interactive demonstrations, lots of practical information on latest trends and technologies, and great networking opportunities. Of particular interest to you as a manager might be “Infrastructure Master Planning: Building From the Inside Out.”

Dan: The conference is a comprehensive look at building methods that enhance building performance and sustainability. I would also recommend that you attend “The Design, Operations, and Maintenance of a Green Manufacturing Facility,” which will feature a five-person expert panel…as well as “Zero Net Energy Buildings: From Policy to Practice.”

Paul: The latter topic addresses the overarching theme of the conference—“Net Zero by 2030.” From heat pump technology to human-centric lighting design, from working with appraisers and realtors to the basics of project financing, the February event will be a perfect primer for you.

What does “net zero” mean and how does it impact me?


Dan: The term describes a building that produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of one year. This is achieved through efficiency measures and construction methods that make buildings produce their own energy (passive or active solar, geothermal, wind, and other renewable sources). What people aren’t always as aware of is that by investing heavily in the efficiency of the construction, less resources need to be devoted to more expensive renewable energy production. Vermont’s Department of Public Service released a plan in 2011 stating a goal of using net zero energy standards for all new residential and commercial construction by 2030.

Paul: Given that America’s 5.3 million commercial buildings and industrial facilities generate 42 percent of the nation’s overall greenhouse gases (1), you can see why that goal is so critical. The question is how to get there. Government incentives can help reduce costs in the near-term, but true cost-effectiveness will come by making net zero standards come as second nature to developers, lenders, realtors, architects, engineers and builders. That challenge will have to play out over the next decade, and is why the “Better Buildings by Design” conference chose net-zero as its theme. We need to demonstrate that these techniques do not have to be budget busters, but are in fact a great investment for a building owner…in that they pay dividends.

Dan: You’ll hear net-zero techniques discussed throughout the two-day event, and ten of its presentations and demonstrations will be devoted to it entirely. Visit http://www.efficiencyvermont.com/for-our-partners/Better-Buildings-by-Design/Overview for more information.

(1) www.energystar.gov/ia/business/challenge/learn_more/FastFacts.pdf‎