Energy Independence: Zero Net Energy: Building Expertise For Sustainability

Bernie Kotlier, director of the Green Building Solutions for the Labor Management Cooperation Committee, recently sat down to speak with Sean Reynolds of Energy Independence Magazine about this emerging technology, its benefits and the expertise involved in development and construction.

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As with most new technologies, there’s a group of early adopters; a group of highly skilled people, designers, architects, environmental consultants and contractors who are gaining this skill.

Riverside, CA (PRWEB) December 30, 2013

A Zero Net Energy (ZNE) building consumes zero energy from traditional utility grids and produces zero carbon emissions annually. The concept is not new, however with increasing energy costs, and continuing environmental concerns, ZNE buildings are quickly becoming a reality.

Bernie Kotlier, director of the Green Building Solutions for the Labor Management Cooperation Committee, recently sat down to speak with Sean Reynolds of Energy Independence Magazine about this emerging technology, its benefits and the expertise involved in their development and construction. Kotlier says ZNE buildings are his favorite buildings. “The Department of Energy has a formal definition. Basically, what it says is that over the course of twelve months, of a one year cycle, that (ZNE) building will not take any net energy from the grid.” Kotlier says there are also zero net electricity buildings that, simply stated, use no electricity from the grid, but ZNE technology makes it possible for complete energy sustainability, including natural gas, heating oil or any other energy source from outside of its environment. At present, there are only a handful of new ZNE buildings under construction. According to Kotlier, California’s energy policy calls for all new residential buildings to be ZNE by 2020 and all new commercial construction to be ZNE by 2030.

Kotlier says for the average builder, because of the level of sophistication involved in building these structures, it can be difficult, but adds, “As with most new technologies, there’s a group of early adopters; a group of highly skilled people, designers, architects, environmental consultants and contractors who are gaining this skill.” An example of this effort is a facility in San Leandro California that Kotlier knows a lot about. It is the joint training facility of the National Electrical Contactors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW.) The Zero Net Energy Center (http://www.znecenter.org) is the first commercial building retrofit designed to meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s requirements for a ZNE building. The 46,000 square-foot ZNE Center will serve as the educational facility for more than 2,000 apprentice and journey-level electricians in Alameda County. According to their website, “In addition to being the very first retrofit of an existing commercial building that meets the U.S. Department of Energy standards for a zero net energy building, the ZNE Center also exceeds the State of California’s 2030 energy efficiency effort by meeting the zero net goal 17 years in advance. It also exceeds the energy conservation goals of the Obama administration’s Better Buildings Challenge.”

Kotlier says that while these buildings presently cost about 30 percent more to build, the cost is coming down and the energy savings in the long term will offset the initial construction costs. Because of programs like the San Leandro training facility, he says the level of skill it takes to install and maintain these systems is also rising. One resource that he recommends for finding the right technicians and contractors is the California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP.) It is a non-profit partnership, which Kotlier co-founded and co-chairs, which trains and certifies licensed electrical contractors and state-certified general electricians in the proper installation, calibration, programming, commissioning and maintenance of advanced lighting control systems http://www.calctp.org. Another is the NECA website at http://www.necanet.org. “Many of those contactors are highly skilled, although not all are trained in ZNE technology,” he says, “but they can contribute their high level of skill in areas like lighting, solar and HVAC to assist in building ZNE projects.”

For many, ZNE makes good sense for the environment and for energy sustainability. As far as good fiscal sense is concerned, Kotlier has a simple message.

“Just imagine the billions and billions of dollars that people are now spending on electricity and gas… that can go into education and construction and creating jobs. That’s a real exciting prospect for the economy.”