Planning and future development of the smart grid will allow renewables' full potential in zero energy buildings.

FREMONT, CA: In the past years, much progress has been made regarding energy, and not just research and analysis; many buildings have been built and are operational. The operational facilities provide the opportunity for measurement and monitoring, which is invaluable for designing and constructing future buildings. As building codes slowly move toward a need for all new building projects to be designed and built-in compliance to ZEB standards, the facilities' operational data will become vital to inform the code officials.

Some municipalities need building construction to be zero energy ready, meaning that the building can be developed and operate without the renewable energy component. Renewable energy can be added later without any changes to the building infrastructure. Worldwide, several instances of highly efficient buildings leverage a fraction of the energy compared to a code-compliant building of similar construction, size, and location. While these buildings are path-breaking and highly efficient, for the most part, they depend on electricity supplied by the electrical grid. ZEB is also extremely advanced and efficient and uses electricity produced by on-site renewable energy.

As more ZEB is constructed, the lessons learned from the previous projects will gradually cement the gap between rock-solid design and construction practices and the complexities that invariably arise working on a novel and technically advanced project. When the gap is nearly closed, there should be several resources that can be made available to professionals evaluating the viability of constructing a ZEB. Open-source standards and best practices are one way to safeguard zero energy building projects; planning, design, construction, and operation are all vital principles that need to be available to an extensive audience. This standardization will encourage closer coordination between manufacturers and builders and enable a common dialog between code officials and designers. Ultimately, if lawmakers and their constituents realize ZEB's value to the public and the environment, there will be a good deal more assistance.

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