Can Vermonters afford (not) to go net zero?

by Paul Duane, Strategic Planning Manager

In 2014, Efficiency Vermont seized an opportunity to collaborate with fellow Vermonters, Bill Maclay and Maclay Architects; the authors of “The New Net Zero,” a book that charts the path for net zero construction, to help determine the financial feasibility of net zero in our state. A net zero building is a building that generates as much renewable energy as it uses on an annual basis. A net zero ready building is a building designed to the same high energy efficiency standards but has yet to add renewable power, such as solar panels. We partnered with Maclay Architects to do the homework so that we are able to answer an important concern that designers, architects, and builders of commercial and residential buildings have in Vermont, “How can we build net zero buildings cost-effectively?” We’re pleased to present the resulting research paper, “Net Zero Energy Feasibility Study.

Making the financial case for net zero buildings

The study used six examples of common building types that are constructed in Vermont, including single family homes, multi-family properties with two and four units, open offices, closed offices, and office/light manufacturing buildings.

The detailed analysis shows that when compared to code compliant buildings, building net zero and net zero ready buildings is a cost effective investment.

Some of the findings show that:

  • Net zero ready and net zero buildings cost significantly less to operate.
  • Starting in the first year of operating the buildings, energy savings will more than offset the finance payments for the additional costs to build to net zero standards.
  • Cost savings for net zero buildings will increase over the years, and becomes even greater after financing has been paid back. 

What’s next for net zero in Vermont?

We now have a roadmap for illustrating how net zero construction in Vermont can achieve net savings starting in the first year of operation. Considering factors like energy cost volatility, health costs, and other environmental costs, the future of net zero new construction has never been brighter in Vermont.

Have you been wondering whether to take the plunge and build a net zero new building in Vermont? For those that are ready for a deep dive into this topic, I invite you to download the research paper.

You can also simply contact us to find out more about building to net zero energy standards or tell us about your projects in the comments.

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