The fact that California leads the nation in environmentally friendly construction is no surprise. As a state, California does more for environmental stewardship than most countries. The latest push from the state Energy and Public Utilities Commissions is a new residential “Zero Net Energy Action Plan” designed to make all new homes zero net energy users by 2020.
A zero net energy home consumes less energy than it produces. By using highly efficient insulation practices, construction materials, and on site power generation like solar photovoltaics, home designers create a self-sustaining home. In California, where resources are often strained, they are particularly appealing. In fact, some cities are already imposing zero net requirements.
Santa Monica already requires that all new single-family homes are net zero, and they have imposed the additional requirement that commercial buildings consume energy at levels at least 10 percent below those set by the state. Santa Monica’s goal is to build commercial facilities that meet or exceed the requirements of the “Living Building Challenge.” Set by the International Living Future Institute, the energy efficiency requirements of the Challenge are the toughest in the world.
What does NET Zero mean for the construction industry?
In short, it means that demand for highly efficient, green home products will rise. Self-generated power, such as solar or wind based electricity, will continue to grow. Home designers and builders will start to look for new and creative ways to insulate homes. While the demand for wood will increase based on the need for thicker walls, net zero construction will open the market for alternatives like insulated concrete form, or ICF, walls. ICF walls are extremely energy-efficient and are perfect technology for use in net zero homes.
The green home revolution is gaining momentum as one solution for the world’s high demand for energy. While it may seem radical now, as net zero homes garner more support in California and other progressive states, the technology will spread. Just as the nation embraced technology born in Silicon Valley, it will embrace net zero as green practices become more mainstream.