What are Net Zero Buildings and Why are They Important?

Net zero buildings are highly efficient structures that produce as much energy as they use on an annual basis. These buildings incorporate renewable energy systems such as solar, wind, anaerobic digestion and hydro and create energy efficiencies through building and design strategies that maximize natural light and include tight insulation. Combined, the energy producing, energy efficient attributes of net zero buildings are working to reduce greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, lower operational costs and provide healthier, more comfortable spaces for building occupants.

According to the Urban Land Institute (ULI), in the past two years, the number of net-zero-energy (NZE) commercial buildings in the United States has increased by 42%. ULI noted that “while that is high growth, representing 62 million square feet of space, the overall number—roughly 700 U.S. properties achieving or striving for net zero—is still low.”

The number of buildings on the path to net zero needs to continue growing to help protect our planet. With buildings in the United States accounting for more than 40% of total energy consumption and significantly contributing to the damaging effects of the global warming, net zero buildings are vital to the energy conservation and renewal that can help combat climate change.

Kingspan started on the path to net zero buildings in 2011, setting a goal to achieve net zero energy consumption for all of our facilities by 2020. We are working on delivering on this goal, matching 100% of our operational energy with renewable energy and continuing to build on our net zero progress and path to sustainability through Planet Passionate, our decade-long commitment to cutting carbon emissions between 2020 and 2030.

In February, we announced that our Columbus, Ohio manufacturing facility and offices are now being powered by 100% renewable electricity. The electricity – about 660,000 kWh annually – is direct-to-grid from a wind farm operated by WGL Energy and distributed by Columbus Southern Power Company. In May, we incorporated new sustainability initiatives at our manufacturing plant in Modesto, California including the installation of a PV solar panel roof designed to reduce the carbon footprint of the plant by generating approximately 1.4 MW of onsite electricity.

Our manufacturing plants in Caledon, Ontario, and Langley, British Columbia, will be the next facilities to shift to 100% renewable energy.

We are also helping architects and contractors deliver more sustainable buildings in the drive toward net zero buildings with high performance building envelopes that reduce energy and carbon. The high R-values of Kingspan’s insulated metal panels provide superior thermal performance that reduces energy consumption and lowers greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to net zero success.

Our products also have a significantly smaller environmental footprint compared to alternative envelope assemblies, such as concrete block, making our insulated metal panels the building envelope material of choice for many LEED and net zero project teams.

One of many projects includes San Francisco International Airport’s Consolidated Administration Campus (CAC), finished in 2019. 55,000-square-feet of Designwall 2000 insulated metal panels used to enclose the CAC played a role in helping SFO become the first airport in the world to become a certified net zero energy facility.

Currently, there are 1 billion buildings in the world, and that footprint is projected to double by 2060. Clearly, net zero energy buildings need to be part of the solution for helping mitigate climate change in a meaningful way.

Putting buildings on the path to net zero, taking a low carbon approach to how they are designed, built and operated can play a critical role in slowing the advance of global warming.

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Term of the Day

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) is a method to compare various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. One metric ton of a greenhouse gas is converted to the equivalent number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential.

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