Green building rating systems such as BREEAM in the United Kingdom, LEED in the United States and Canada, DGNB in Germany, CASBEE in Japan, and VERDE in Spain help consumers determine a structure’s level of environmental performance. They award credits for optional building features that support green design in categories such as location and maintenance of building site, conservation of water, energy, and building materials, and occupant comfort and health. The number of credits generally determines the level of achievement. Today’s architects and engineers are mindful of these guidelines and pushing forward with positive and sustainable solutions.
Zero-energy buildings use the electrical grid for energy storage and are independent of the grid. Energy is usually harvested on-site through energy producing technologies like solar and wind, while reducing the overall use of energy with highly efficient HVAC and lighting technologies. The zero-energy goal is becoming more practical as the costs of alternative energy technologies decrease and the costs of traditional fossil fuels increase.
The development of modern zero-energy buildings is now possible through the progress made in new energy and construction technologies and techniques, and also has been significantly improved by academic research, which collects precise energy performance data on traditional and experimental buildings and provides performance parameters for advanced computer models to predict the efficacy of engineering designs. The result of forward thinking will have a profound impact on building performance and efficiency for decades.