Energy Manager

June 26, 2024 – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has developed a National Definition of a “zero emissions building”: a building that is highly energy efficient, does not emit GHGs directly from energy use, and is powered solely by clean energy.

To that end, DOE has published “National Definition of a Zero Emissions Building, Part 1: Operational Emissions from Energy Use, Version 1”, which sets criteria for a building with zero emissions from energy used for building operations (DOWNLOAD PDF)

“ASHRAE is pleased to be recognized and have our referenced standards acknowledged as guiding tools in this significant milestone to combat climate change by decarbonizing the built environment,” said Ginger Scoggins, ASHRAE president. “The National Definition of a Zero Emissions Building provides a clear market signal and consistent target, supported by measurable data, to propel the building sector towards a sustainable future.”

At a minimum, a building that achieves zero operational emissions from energy use meets the following criteria:

1. Energy efficient. The building is among the most efficient.
2. Free of onsite emissions from energy use. The building’s direct GHG emissions from energy use equal zero.
3. Powered solely from clean energy. All the energy used by the building, both onsite and off, is from clean energy sources.

NOTE: This is not a regulatory standard, says DOE, but rather guidance that public and private entities may adopt to determine whether a building has zero emissions from operational energy use, including emissions from tenants.

It applies to existing buildings and new construction, covering commercial and residential buildings, but not those owned by the U.S. federal government.

The standardized, consistent, and measurable minimum criteria set forth in the national definition will support the buildings sector moving toward zero emissions and advance public- and private-sector climate goals, says DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

Future parts of the definition may address emissions from producing, transporting, installing, and disposing of building materials; minimizing the impacts of refrigerants; and additional considerations.

DOWNLOAD “National Definition of a Zero Emissions Building, Part 1: Operational Emissions from Energy Use, Version 1” (PDF): DOE National Definition Zero Emissions Part 1


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