Sunday, November 17, 2013

Net Zero and Beyond

All mistakes are mine.

Cambridge, MA has been debating a net zero energy and/or emissions standard ( for new buildings over 25,000 square feet since the Spring of 2013, partially because of an ecodistrict plan with MIT and others on a large parcel in East Cambridge (a plan MIT refused to make net zero even though they are rumored to be building a net zero project with some of the same partners in Basel, Switzerland).

The City Manager (Cambridge has a city manager form of municipal government, along with proportional representation so city politics get weird fast) has established a "Getting to Net Zero" Task Force to study the issue.  Cambridge Community Development Department produced a fine overview of the state of the art in larger buildings for zero net emissions at (pdf alert)

As the national Ecodistrict Summit was in town recently, the Community Development Department and Sustainable Performance Institute ( hosted experts from Integral Group (, a deep green engineering firm to present lessons from the more than 40 net zero buildings they've worked on.

Cambridge Public Library
Andrea Traber
Dave Ramslie
Ben Galuza

Community compact on sustainable future - Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, with business partners Akamai Technologies, Novartis, Institutes for BioMedical Research, Whole Foods, and others to come.

Integral has 41 net zero projects in process or completed
"We have to take out 80% of our footprint" in order to control greenhouse gas emissions
Fort Collins, CO - zero energy district, 2 square miles, 7000 residential and commercial customers, municipal utility, 45 MW, generate local energy from 50 mile radius, demand reduction and response, resilient design and passive survivability, district heating cooling and power, microgrids, net zero water
Walter Reed Medical Center - 2 million sq ft, 62.5 acres, 2030 zero net energy target, 2040 carbon neutral, phased infrastructure development, "future proofing"
Vancouver - district heating through underground water loop with business buildings providing waste heat for residential buildings
Vancouver Cambie Street corridor - airport to downtown, ambient water loop for district heating, hydronic heating and cooling

Recovering bureaucrat
Vancouver's green building and energy policy
Only one North American city met its Kyoto goal, 6% below 1990 levels by 2012, and that was Portland, OR through decommissioning a coal plant.  Vancouver was about six months later, within the year but not the month of Kyoto goals.  Vancouver has 55% of its ghg from buildings and gets most of its power from hydro (92%).  New goal is 33% below 2012 levels by 2020
Building energy disclosure - New York, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, California and Washington as well reports Institute for Market Transformation
300% difference in how buildings are performing [two similar energy efficient buildings built in New Orleans after Katrina by the same architects as part of the same development exhibited entirely different energy expenditures, almost purely because of the habits of the different residents]
Vancouver will be carbon neutral in operations by 2020
82kbtu/sq ft now to 41kbtu/sq ft by 2020 with natural gas displaced by renewables
New buildings will show how they meet the target so that lessons learned are shared
Connect existing loads for fuel switching, creating a local carbon offset market, fund energy efficient retrofits
Passive design toolkits for commercial and residential buildings for local conditions

Net zero is zero combustion energy with all energy used generated onsite or within area
Green or net zero can be built at or near conventional costs
Living building challenge - k-12 schools are early adopters
"Net zero buildings will be at market rate within five years" - for office buildings and even for wet labs [labs seem to be the most energy-intensive buildings]
First address building envelope, lighting, hvac and only then the plug loads which can make up the bulk of building energy use
Standard office plug load is 2.5 w/sq ft, integral's Oakland office is at .45 w/sq ft
Z-squared office is a bank retrofit to net zero - envelope, day lighting,
Packard Foundation, near Palo Alto
49,000 sq ft office net zero building
Chilled water thermal storage with ambient water loop and heat pumps
Exploratorium in SF -
all electric heat pump for all heating and cooling, will be first net zero museum, radiant heating and cooling in floors
J Craig Venter Institute
lab building, three stories [question about a new net zero energy building in an area where everybody has to commute miles to get there and back again - transportation policy is an unacknowledged key to sustainability and resilience]

Andrea:  Talbot Northgate, Codman Square, Boston ecodistrict charette
with over 80 people participating from the Ecodistrict Summit

Slides will be available at Cambridge Community Development


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