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Net Zero Building: Reality or Wishful Thinking?

And what exactly does net zero indicate? It means that over the course of a 12-month benchmarking period (the standard benchmark factoring in seasonal changes), a building has produced just as much (or more) energy as it has consumed.

But how? I reached out to several industry experts to discuss this trend including: Brian Anderson, Founding Partner of Anderson Porter Design, Dru B. Crawley, former Commercial Buildings Team Lead for the Department of Energy, Jeff Blankman, McCormick's Sustainable Manufacturing Manager, and current Director of Building Performance at Bentley Systems, and Blake Bisson, VP of Sales & Marketing at Ekotrope.

For existing facilities, projects begin with retrofits to lessen consumption. For example, McCormick recently announced its net zero achievement in its food distribution center which happens to be a staggering 363,000 square feet. Blankman says the first step is addressing current consumption first, "The most important maneuver in a net zero makeover is to focus on energy efficiency first. You must reduce consumption-making a facility as efficient as possible."

His facility achieved net zero following a series of retrofits including updated lighting and HVAC systems, followed by the installation of photovoltaic solar panels (PV) on its roof space. This installation produced enough energy to balance the reduced consumption post-retrofits.

On the other hand, design teams and architects are beginning to design buildings with the initial goal of operating as a net zero facility post-occupancy. The experts offer considerations for such initiatives:

  • Integrate planning pre-design.
  • Do thorough energy and cost modeling beforehand.
  • Carefully research incentives and funding opportunities.
  • Expect challenges and ongoing oversight.

Is this idea achievable on a wide scale basis? Read the original story written for Software Advice and see what the experts have to say: Breaking Down Net Zero Building: Reality or Wishful Thinking?


Ashley Halligan is an analyst at Austin-based Software Advice specializing in the facility and property management markets. She regularly reports on sustainability trends among other topics. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at

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