Next frontier for energy efficient buildings: Net-zero structures

September 11, 2012

The green building sector is booming around the world due to an increased need for cost-efficiency and troubling reports about the total energy consumption that commercial real estate is responsible for.

Certain organizations are helping to expedite the transition to green buildings, especially in the U.S. The Department of Energy (DOE) has highlighted the need for more sustainable real estate and the commercial market was targeted by the agency as one area that could be transformed in the coming years.

The DOE designated an innovation Hub to help transform the commercial real estate market in the U.S., both through the design and development of new technologies and the testing of new equipment to make upgrades more attractive for companies and building owners.

The Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) is an effort that is located in Philadelphia and features the brightest minds from academia, energy development companies, the private sector and government. Together, these individuals are looking to transform the building stock of the city in order to have it act as an example for how retrofits and green installations can help businesses save money.

This type of effort is helping the commercial real estate sector move in the right direction, toward the eventual possibility of net-zero energy buildings.

According to Architecture Source, the first wave of green improvements to buildings has been completed in many developed companies, as ideas about specific energy efficient upgrades are well known within the real estate industry. Investors are already looking for projects that go to the next step in the process, a more efficient, net-zero structure.

"Early (venture capital) investors are looking for exits for the first wave of successful green buildings start-ups and the seeds of the next crop are being sown in on-site generation and sustainable materials," Ryan Castilloux, an analyst for Lux Research, told the news outlet.

Since a greater value has been placed on green buildings by the companies that occupy these properties, it makes sense for investors to look to the next logical progression of technology within the sector.

"We are seeing commercial examples of larger and more complicated buildings, which I think is a positive sign," said Stacey Hobart, the communications director at the New Buildings Institute. "Most of these buildings are smaller buildings, and most of them are early market adopters."