Self-reliance, resilience, frugality, and the long-term view are aspects of sustainability that really appeal to me and for these same reasons so do net-zero energy (NZE) buildings. I believe that NZE homes and buildings make better use of people’s time, materials, and money and help people and communities to be more self-reliant.

Image At Brendle Group we have a goal to make our home net-zero energy.  We have already come a long way through added insulation, high-efficiency HVAC equipment and controls, sub metering and energy display, efficient appliances, plug-load reductions, and a solar PV system. Through this systematic approach, the building’s energy use intensity (EUI) was reduced to 18 kBtu/sqft in 2012. On a few of those days last year we came close to being NZE. To achieve NZE on an annual basis we need to further decrease energy use and then we will need to increase energy generation to offset the remaining energy consumption. Using for our building the same planning tools that we apply to communities and campuses, we are working to identify and prioritize the projects that will get us to NZE most cost effectively. Some of the next steps that have been identified so far include changing emergency and exterior lighting to LED, more plug load reductions, and investigating additional solar PV options.

Most NZE activity is focused on new buildings. As part of our leadership and participation in FortZED, we want to model the way for other small businesses and show that existing buildings can also achieve NZE. The challenge has inspired us to keep progressing and given me a better appreciation for the real world challenges that small businesses face when trying to improve their energy efficiency.

You can follow our progress towards NZE online in the energy section of our annual sustainability report.