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With the advent of new material, an increased focus on climate change and a focus on affordability, new designs are emerging, new designs that bring us into the future of sustainability and energy performance. And, the results are even more impressive because they cost less than conventional construction.

Skeptics have dismissed net-zero energy buildings — buildings which create the same amount of renewable energy they use — as expensive and cumbersome to build.

But multiple real estate developers across the country, including a nonprofit called Giv Group in Salt Lake City, have been working the past few years to prove critics wrong by demonstrating that net-zero buildings can be constructed for close to the same cost as conventional structures, with just a little extra planning.

Giv Group claims its new $16 million, 112-unit apartment building at 355 N. 500 West is the tallest net-zero apartment building in Utah, and is the first in the state to be built for less than the traditional cost, with savings of $565 per unit in mechanical and electrical systems. The developers named the complex “Project Open” because they plan to make the designs and data from the development publicly available so others can learn from their approach.

At an open house on Tuesday, Utah’s Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox called Project Open “truly remarkable,” and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski called it “a role model project for our city,” praising the building’s energy efficiency and the fact it is made up of 70 percent affordable housing units, which can be rented for as little as $250 a month.

Nationally, commercial and resident buildings account for 40 percent of all primary energy use, 73 percent of electricity consumption and 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. Data from the Net-Zero Energy Coalition shows that less than .1 percent of all residential buildings in the United States are net-zero energy.

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