Building codes are evolving to enforce more green building practices. To date, this has added sometimes unforeseen costs, slowing down projects or stalling them indefinitely. But now, with manufacturers, suppliers, designers and developers behind the initiative, the costs are equalizing.

More American real estate developers could be poised to enter the era of the net-zero-energy building, industry experts predicted during ULI’s 2018 Spring Meeting in Detroit.

“A lot of work already has been done with net-zero-energy buildings,” said David Kaneda, a managing principal at the Oakland, California–based Integral Group and an expert on building energy efficiency. “We’ve done over 80 zero-energy buildings, from remodeled office space to residential and including medical, museums, manufacturing, and low-income housing. The results are out there for people to see and learn from.”

Jay Sholl, a senior vice president in the San Francisco office of CBRE and a member of the firm’s Global Corporate Services Group, moderated the discussion, noting that as building codes become more stringent and energy efficiency and renewable technologies become more cost-effective, developers are beginning to aim for net-zero energy in new construction and major renovation projects.

Kaneda stressed that, unlike the scheduling for other projects, the team for a net-zero-energy building should start working together from day one. “It’s pretty simple to design buildings like this,” he continued. “But the team must work together from the start. Architects sometimes don’t talk to the engineers until later, but with a net-zero-energy building, engineering affects the building design from the very beginning and everyone should be involved.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a net-zero-energy building produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, thus reducing the use of nonrenewable energy. Net-zero structures use cost-effective measures to reduce energy use through efficiency and include renewable-energy systems that produce enough energy to meet remaining needs. The advantages of net-zero buildings include lower environmental impacts, lower operating and maintenance costs, better resilience to power outages and natural disasters, and improved energy security.

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