Net-Zero Energy ‌Buildings ‌• Energy Independence for the Building Owner

The Net-Zero Energy Heuristic for Buildings was developed to provide a decision making strategy to assist building owners in becoming energy independent. It was created to be applied to existing as well as new residential and commercial structures. When utilized, it will have a profound effect on reducing commercial power generation, replacing it with renewable energy provided by building owners.

Technological advances in building materials, construction techniques, HVAC systems and power generation are constantly rewriting the rules on how to design and construct the buildings where we live and work. This Heuristic utilizes techniques to make our buildings energy efficient and sustainable with the ultimate goal of creating a beautiful building as defined in the Living Building Challenge.

The Net-Zero Energy Plan (N-ZEP) consists of three steps: Energy Audits for Existing Buildings, Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems and Energy Micro-generation.   These three steps work together to conserve, reduce and offset energy use, making buildings Energy Independent.

Energy Audits

Energy conservation refers to reducing energy consumption through using less of an energy service. Even though energy conservation reduces energy services, it can result in increased environmental quality, national security, personal financial security and higher savings.  It is at the top of the sustainable energy hierarchy.  It also lowers energy costs by preventing future resource depletion.

One of the primary ways to improve energy conservation in buildings is to use an energy audit. An energy audit is an inspection, survey and analysis of energy flows, for energy conservation in a building, process or system to reduce the amount of energy input into the system without negatively affecting the output(s). In a large, multi-use building, an energy audit is the first step in identifying opportunities to reduce energy expense and carbon footprints.  

These specific energy studies outlined in this proposal start with a benchmarking process and then continue into a walk-through of the facility to identify major problem areas and propose feasible and cost effective solutions to the HVAC System and Building Envelope.  All financial implications of the recommended alternative energy measures will satisfy the fiscal criteria of the church committee.  Energy conservation opportunities (or measures) can consist of more efficient use or of partial or global replacement of the existing equipment and building systems.

When performing  ASHRAE Energy Audits the main issues of the audit process are:

  • The analysis of building and utility data, including study of the installed equipment and analysis of energy bills
  • The survey of the real operating conditions
  • The understanding of the building behaviour and of the interactions with weather, occupancy and operating schedules
  • The selection and the evaluation of energy conservation measures
  • The estimation of energy saving potential
  • The identification of customer concerns and needs
  • The first two levels of The ASHRAE Energy Audit  that are recommended for the project are described in the following Scope of Services.

Heating & Cooling Load Calculations and Geothermal Design

Using the data from the schematic building model, Manual J Heat Load Calculations are performed in accordance with ASHRE Standards ( to determine the maximum heating and cooling loads for your building in your specific location.  These loads are used to properly size the HVAC Equipment, this is a step that is nearly always omitted but is critical in properly sizing the furnace/AC.  In heating dominant locations across the country, many times when the HVAC System has been replaced, furnaces are oversized which creates problems with humidity control during cooling.

The Geothermal Heat Pump design is performed in accordance with the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association.The design accompanies a report comparing the heating and cooling costs for the proposed system versus traditional and available fuels (oil, propane, natural gas and electricity) and compares the 30 year life cycle cost of each viable option.  The design of the system includes vertical well field design (200' deep max), control and circulating pump system with backup pump design, fill and purge capability and all other equipment with drawings and specifications necessary to obtain bids for the installation of the system


Microgeneration is the small-scale generation of heat and electric power by individuals, small businesses and communities to meet their own needs, as alternatives or supplements to traditional centralized grid-connected power. Although this may be motivated by practical considerations, such as unreliable grid power or long distance from the electrical grid, the term is mainly used currently for environmentally conscious approaches that aspire to zero or low-carbon footprints or cost reduction. Microgeneration can dynamically balance the supply and demand for electric power, by producing more power during periods of high demand and high grid prices, and less power during periods of low demand and low grid prices. This "hybridized grid" allows both microgeneration systems and large power plants to operate with greater energy efficiency and cost effectiveness than either could alone. Microgeneration technologies include small-scale wind turbines, micro hydro, solar PV systems, microbial fuel cells, ground source heat pumps, and micro combined heat and power installations

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