9 Sustainable Building Methods - Net-Zero Energy Building

When you want to design a sustainable low-cost building, you wonder how far you can go to maximize the energy-saving potential. What if there are ways to make them zero-energy consuming?

Net-Zero Energy Building(NZEB) or Zero Net Energy(ZNE) Building refers to the production of enough energy within the site to sustain all energy costs of the building all year round.

Features of Net-Zero Energy Buildings

  1. Passive Design Strategies
  2. Energy Production and Conservation 
  3. Smart Energy Efficiency Devices
  4. Water Efficiency
  5. Energy-Efficient Lighting
  6. Energy-Efficient Ventilation
  7. Solar Energy Harvesting 
  8. Improved Building Durability
  9. Low Building Operational Cost

Why Choose Net-Zero Energy Building Construction?  

  • Going Net-Zero will help bring the energy costs to the minimum. 
  • It helps improve overall occupant comfort inside the building.
  • It helps to create the most technologically forward design for the building. 
  • Improves the overall performance of the building with the help of active and passive methods. 

1. Passive Design Strategies

Passive Design Strategies for ventilation, insulation and Orientation
Passive Design Strategies for Buildings

a. Reduction of Energy Demand

Low energy can be achieved in buildings with high insulation, high airtightness, and ideal ventilation. 

b. Building Massing and Orientation

Building thermal loads can be reduced inside the buildings by focusing on the right type of massing and building orientation. The considerations for these are the building plan, site plan, natural light, and ventilation.

c. Natural Daylighting

The window arrangement, shape, and size of the window and the shading devices can be customized to make maximum utilization of the natural light available inside the site. Window-to-wall ratio and window glazing are the other considerations. 

d. Natural Ventilation

Prevailing wind direction can be made use of while constructing open and closed spaces inside the site for occupant comfort. Exterior facade porosity can also help improve the use of existing natural ventilation.  

2. Energy Production and Conservation

Energy Efficiency in Architecture with wind turbines, building envelope and photovoltaic panels
Energy Efficiency Methods in Building design

a. Building Envelope

The building envelope must be designed to obstruct the infiltration of air inside the buildings and to also effectively reduce heat transfer. Thermal zoning and ventilation setbacks are a few ways in which the energy efficiency of a building can be improved. 

b. Photovoltaic Panels

Conversion of existing natural solar radiation into electricity is an excellent energy production method that can prove to be highly cost-effective and energy-efficient. 

c. Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines set at the maximum levels of the building aids in the production of electricity through aerodynamic force. They are a cost-effective and sustainable source of electricity production 24/7, all year round. 

3. Smart Energy Efficiency Devices

Smart Energy Efficiency Devices and Sensors used for lowering energy consumption
Smart Energy Devices to Lower Energy Consumption

a. Smart Thermostats

It is a home automation machine to control the thermal settings inside the building. Temperature settings can be programmed for the weather condition, daily schedule, occupant usage, and so on.

b. Home Energy Monitors

They are used to regularly monitor the energy consumption inside the buildings, set budgets, and reduce the overall energy usage through time and monitoring. 

c. Smart Home Sensors

They help control all the lighting and ventilation systems inside the building. They are programmed to automatically detect activity and changes in the environment, control them and turn them off when not in use. 

d. Smart Lighting

By connecting all the lighting devices to an external sensor or an application, traditional light switches are taken out of the picture, and efficiency is added in its place. 

e. Smart Appliances

Smart home appliances help reduce energy wastage through automation of controls and are also created to be responsive to the occupants. 

f. Aerating Shower Head

The water droplets are mixed with air to form bigger droplets, which ultimately creates the same shower experience, with only less water involved in the process. 

g. Dual/Low Flush Toilets

Dual flush toilets are becoming the most preferred as they have two buttons that regulate the amount of water that needs to be flushed based on the need. 

Low flush toilets are made to be more effective than a full flush toilet as they are specially designed to remove excreta with less water. 

4. Water Efficiency 

Water efficiency methods like groundwater recharge and rainwater harvesting to reduce water consumption in building design
Methods to Reduce Water Consumption in Building Design

a. Improved Water System Assessment and Maintenance

This can be done by regulating the water supply system for management and service of water supply management systems. 

b. Artificial Groundwater Recharge

Recharge wells can be used to replenish groundwater. They can also effectively be recharged by redirecting across the surface through canals, sprinkler systems, and so on. 

c. Rainwater Harvesting 

Rainwater catchment systems help promote the groundwater and make the most use of the rain falling onto the site and on the roofs of the buildings. They are sometimes fitted with filtration systems and used for regular use inside the building as well. 

d. Landscaping to reduce surface run-off

In sloped terrains and contours, surface runoff of rainwater can be actively avoided by planting vegetation whose roots hold onto the soil. This helps avoid soil erosion and helps promote healthy vegetation inside the site. 

e. Advanced toilet Appliances 

As discussed earlier, smart faucets, dual flushes, aerated showerheads, and some simple ways to improve water efficiency in the building. 

f. Xeriscaping

By choosing plants that do not require a lot of water supply to sustain, one can reduce the water needs of the landscaped parts of the site. 

5. Energy Efficient Lighting

Energy efficient lighting techniques like LED Lamps and Lighting Controls
Sustainable Lighting Techniques in Building Design

a. Use of CFL or LED Lamps

CFL and LED lamps can be preferred over the conventional ones to improve the power factor and save energy at the same time.

b. Lighting Controls

Automated lighting controls and sensors can help in the power-saving aspects of the building so they can be turned off promptly when not in use.

c. Energy-Efficient Accessories

Some lighting accessories help in increasing the light emission and decreasing the power used. They help in increasing the productivity of light sources as a whole. 

6. Energy Efficient Ventilation

Energy efficient ventilation techniques for sustainable building design using stack ventilation, louvres and vents
Sustainable Ventilation Techniques in Building Design

a. Stack Ventilation

The stack/chimney effect can be used to make the most use of the existing natural airflow in a building. This is done with the influence in air pressure between the internal and external atmosphere. 

b. Cross Ventilation

Strategic placement of windows in adjacent walls helps in effective circulation of the incoming and outgoing air, improving the indoor atmosphere and keeping the air fresh at all times. 

c. Openable Windows and Louvres

Based on the ventilation needs of each of the spaces in the building and the direction of the prevailing wind, louvers and openable windows can be designed. The size, shape, and amount of louvers for the right air pressure can be considered.

d. Air Vents and ‘Trickle’ Ventilators

Trickle vents are a good addition to the windows to allow small amounts of ventilation at all times. This helps prevent poor ventilation and humidity due to condensation inside the built spaces. 

e. Automatically Responsive Inlets

Windows can be mechanized to be automatically responsive to the external environment and the airflow. By understating the needs of the occupants, windows can be automatically adjusted to maintain comfort. 

7. Solar Energy Harvesting

Solar energy harvesting using photovoltaic panels, solar glass and solar panel control and monitoring system in building design
Solar Harvesting Techniques in Building Design

a. Photovoltaic Panels

The latest technology in the photovoltaic realm has resulted in minimal and elegant-looking solar panels of different kinds, including solar shingles, integrated solar roofs, and so on. 

b. Solar Glass

Solar glass is an aesthetically pleasing method to make the most out of the natural solar radiation in the buildings. This is done through the integration of solar cells in the glass in the windows and other major glass facades.

c. Solar Panel Control and Monitoring System

This is a great way to monitor the efficiency of solar panels. The data received can be assessed and efficiency can be improved. 

8. Improved Building Durability

Methods to improve building durability through insulation, corrosion resistant coating, and locally available materials
Methods to Improve Building Durability in Building Design

a. Insulated Building Envelope

The building envelope, when sealed, can increase the overall durability of the building. This can be done through spray foam insulation, exterior/interior sub-walls, rigid sheets, and so on. 

b. Use Durable and Locally Available Materials

By using locally available materials, you can reduce external transportation costs and minimize fuel consumption.

Durable and sustainable materials can be used to make the building long-lasting and for it to withstand all the climatic extremes. 

c. Seal the Building against the weather

Weather sealants are waterproof and help cover all the small openings in the fenestrations in the building. They help improve the overall ability of the building to withstand external moisture absorption and other climatic conditions that can harm the structure. 

d. Corrosion Resistant Coating on Metals

Corrosion can weaken the internal and external structure of the building when excess moisture is being absorbed by the building. Making the metals used corrosion-resistant during the construction phase can help avoid this.

e. Fire-Resistant Building Design

Insulating the building from fire and using building materials that are fire-resistant or with fire-resistant coating are some ways to help prevent the spread of fire and reduce the impact. 

f. Earthquake-Resistant Structures

In earthquake-prone areas, it is essential to have a strong foundation and use methods to make the building earthquake-resistant to maintain its stability. 

9. Low Building Operational Cost

a. Accurate Estimation for Waste Reduction

Before the construction begins, a precise area and cost estimation need to be done to avoid wastage of materials.

b. Automated Construction Workforce to Reduce Labor 

Mundane work at the construction site can be automated to reduce labor and service costs at all phases of the construction process. 

Through the combination of the architectural techniques rooted through time and the upcoming advanced technological improvements in the field, Net-Zero Energy Building construction has become easier than ever. 

There is constant innovation in the field of architecture and sustainable architecture through time. Some exploration and lots of early choices are ways in which NZEB can ultimately be achieved. 

You might also like:

9 Sustainable Building Methods - Net-Zero Energy Building