Zero energy building project activity spikes

Sources: New Buildings Institute, Portland, Ore.; CP staff

Demand for zero energy buildings across the U.S. and Canada is growing exponentially, according to new data from New Buildings Institute. The group’s 2020 Getting to Zero Buildings List shows the total number of verified and emerging zero energy buildings in North America has grown to nearly 700, representing a 42 percent increase since 2018. The total square footage of zero energy buildings has surpassed 62 million, a 39 percent jump from 2018. The number of verified zero energy buildings in the U.S. and Canada more than doubled between 2018 and 2020, a sign that design professionals are gaining expertise for delivering on zero energy targets set by building owners.

A “verified” zero energy building is defined as an ultra-low-energy building that consumes only as much energy as it produces with clean renewable energy. These projects must provide 12 months of measured energy use and renewable energy production data. An “emerging” zero energy building is one that has a goal of achieving zero energy, but has yet to be completed or attain zero energy-level performance. 

“In the United States, where buildings are responsible for nearly 30 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions, zero energy buildings will continue to play an important role as we transition to a low-carbon economy,” says NBI CEO Ralph DiNola. “Because so many of the zero energy buildings we are tracking run entirely on electricity and include on-site renewable energy generation, they are proving to be a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions, achieve deep energy savings, and improve the indoor air quality of homes and commercial buildings.”

NBI’s Getting to Zero Buildings List, posted here, is North America’s most comprehensive record of zero energy and ultra-low energy buildings. Anyone can submit projects to the Getting to Zero Database by reporting their EUI and renewable production intensity (RPI) numbers. Once approved to the database, users can easily find project details—such as location, building size and building type—thanks to an interactive search and sort tool. NBI also maintains a Getting to Zero website at, which houses over 300 resources for zero energy and zero carbon building policy, design and operation. 

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