The White House Introduces a New Definition for Zero-Energy Buildings

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The White House has introduced a federal definition for zero-emissions buildings, aiming to set a new standard for building energy performance in the U.S. Although this guidance is not legally binding, it is intended to signal the importance of sustainable building practices. Announced by White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi on June 6 at the American Institute of Architects conference, this definition is a collaborative effort by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A zero-emissions building (ZEB) should be energy efficient, produce no on-site greenhouse-gas emissions, and be powered entirely by clean energy. This label applies to both new constructions and existing buildings undergoing renovations.

The DOE and EPA began this initiative last September as part of a plan to reduce U.S. building emissions by 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2050. Over 1,000 stakeholders contributed to shaping the criteria. Despite lacking regulatory power, the definition aims to encourage private sector adoption and drive investment in cutting-edge clean energy technologies.

Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm emphasized that the new definition will support the sector in creating resilient communities and high-quality jobs. Notable organizations, including the International Living Future Institute, have praised the initiative for providing a clear framework for decarbonizing the building industry.

The new guidelines also highlight ongoing efforts, such as the EPA’s Energy Star NextGen program, which certifies energy-efficient, low-carbon-use commercial buildings. Additionally, the nonprofit Requity is an example of practical implementation, working with students to retrofit buildings in Baltimore, promoting zero-emissions construction.

Original article posted on June 6, 2024

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