by Jodi Summers
California’s green protocols will continue to influence green building. January 2017 will see the application of “Title 24,” building energy efficiency standards set forth by the California Energy Commission. The updated building energy efficiency should cut regulated energy use in new homes by 28% and save consumers $31 a month compared to houses built under the current energy code. For buildings constructed and retrofitted in 2017 alone, the CEC found that standards will cut energy use by about 281 gigawatt hours of electricity and 16 million therms of natural gas per year, reducing harmful carbon dioxide pollution emissions by about 160,000 metric tons per year.
The new standards also set the stage for zero net energy new homes in the state within five years. A zero-energy building, also known as a zero net energy (ZNE) building, net-zero energy building (NZEB), or net zero building, is a building with zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site, or in other definitions by renewable energy sources elsewhere. These buildings consequently contribute less overall greenhouse gas to the atmosphere than similar non-ZNE buildings. They do at times consume non-renewable energy and produce greenhouse gases, but at other times reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas production elsewhere by the same amount.
Net zero designs often have large open plan interior spaces and double-height ceilings, allowing for natural light throughout, and future reconfiguration is simple, as needed. The home’s shell produces near zero waste, is made of 89% recycled steel and is 100% recyclable, seismically resilient and safe from damage by termites and mold.
Custom-built homes can easily be created from columns and beams that are laser cut in a manufacturing plant and delivered to the site for assembly. Precut insulation panels clip into place between the steel columns and polyurethane foam insulation is sprayed on the exterior that tightly seals the building and acts as a vapor barrier. Together, the steel structure, insulation panels, spray insulation and the roof create an energy-efficient envelope.
By partnering a solar collection system with a sexy energy collection system like a Tesla Powerwall, it’s possible to live net zero off the grid and make the home as sustainable as current building codes allow.