July 21, 2016

What's Driving Growth in ZNE Homes?

Karin Burns


Zero Net Energy (ZNE) homes are the future of our industry, and ushering them into the mainstream is a priority for Build It Green. Last month, BIG hosted a webinar to explore the current state of ZNE: What’s driving growth and how do we stimulate demand?

Four Build It Green partners and industry thought leaders shared their insights, including Shilpa Sankaran, interim executive director of the Net-Zero Energy Coalition, and Sean Armstrong, founder of Redwood Energy and a true pioneer in bringing ZNE to the affordable housing world. I encourage you to watch the recorded webinar or download the presentation slides (pdf), but you can also read the key takeaways below.

Look for more Build It Green ZNE offerings and updates in the coming months. BIG’s GreenPoint Rated certification was the first to offer recognition for ZNE, and while that is a great start, we have more to do to take ZNE from the innovation phase to standard practice when it becomes part of California’s building code in 2020.


Karin Burns
Build It Green CEO


Takeaways from BIG's ZNE Webinar

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  • California is leading the way: There are 6,074 ZNE or ZNE-ready housing units in the United States; California leads all states with 1,540 units and 115 home builders committed to ZNE.

  • Multiple units predominate: 95% of the ZNE units are in projects with more than 1 unit; so multifamily and 2-4 unit housing is driving ZNE growth—not single-family detached housing.

  • Industry innovators are driving ZNE: At this time, a handful of industry innovators are driving projects. In terms of the technology adoption bell curve, ZNE is at the “innovators” stage: The goal for ZNE advocates is to spread the word about ZNE to influence the early adopters, who can then influence the early mainstream.

  • Emerging technologies are influencers: Technologies like home performance dashboards (with real-time data), electric vehicles, and home battery storage are influencing and accelerating ZNE practices.

  • Policy supports ZNE: Progressive policies in states like California and Massachusetts, and cities like Palo Alto, Seattle, Austin, and Washington D.C. are supporting and driving ZNE projects.

  • ZNE is a market differentiator: For home builders like Massachusetts-based Carter Scott, a ZNE focus earns positive publicity and referrals.

  • ZNE brings financing opportunities: ZNE offers increased access to financing programs and funding opportunities for developers, according to Sean Armstrong, founder of Redwood Energy.

  • ZNE can lower costs: Builders are finding that ZNE can lower construction costs when they can avoid installing gas lines to a development, and reduce HVAC equipment costs.

  • Market potential is tremendous: Lux Research predicts that ZNE and near-ZNE buildings will grow to a $1.3 trillion market by 2025.

Watch the Webinar >
Download the Slides > (pdf)