Sustainable Energy Group Receives Grant to Transform Residential Housing

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Northeast Sustainable Energy Association awarded grant by Barr Foundation to catalyze market for Zero Net Energy Homes - buildings that are healthier, more sustainable and can actually produce more energy than they consume - by demonstrating that these structures are attainable and cost effective.


The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association

NESEA...members have played critical roles in nearly every zero net energy building in the northeast

Buildings are the number one source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – especially in cities. In Boston, they account for 74 percent of the city’s carbon footprint. What if we could reduce this number dramatically, by building and renovating homes so that they produce more energy than they consume? A new effort now underway by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA)is betting that we can.

Last month, NESEA was awarded a $125,000 grant by the Boston-based Barr Foundation to catalyze the market for “zero net energy homes” -- homes that actually generate more energy than they use.

Encouraging more widespread adoption of the techniques and technologies of extremely energy efficient building can substantially reduce building-related GHG emissions. Such work can also be done using existing technologies. It is highly cost effective. It improves indoor air quality and associated health outcomes. It is also a generator of local jobs that can’t be outsourced.

“NESEA is a terrific partner,” said Barr Foundation Senior Program Officer Mariella Tan Puerto. “Its members have played critical roles in nearly every zero net energy building in the northeast. And they’ve worked so far up the learning curve that some are of their buildings are now cost-competitive with conventional construction.”

More than five years ago, NESEA introduced its annual “Zero Net Energy Building Award,” which provides a $10,000 prize for the best example of a building in the Northeast that produces more energy than it consumes. Over the years, NESEA has attracted nearly 30 applications from seven states for this prestigious award, which is given each year at NESEA’s Building Energy Conference and Trade Show (this year’s BuildingEnergy conference will be held March 5-7 at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston).

Based on conversations with industry leaders, NESEA learned that there are three primary barriers to widespread adoption of zero net energy buildings: lack of access to examples of successful projects, lack of widespread technical knowledge with respect to how to complete these projects, and perceptions that zero net energy construction is not cost effective.

“Thanks to this support from the Barr Foundation, this new effort allows us to tackle each of these three barriers head on,” said Jennifer J. Marrapese, Executive Director of NESEA.

First, NESEA will create a database of zero net energy homes in the Northeast. This database will allow practitioners - architects, engineers, builders, and even interested homeowners - to search for examples based on a variety of criteria, including products, materials and technologies used, cost per square foot, project team participants, location, and whether the building is a retrofit or new construction. The goal will be to populate the database with at least 30 net zero home case studies by the end of the grant, in June 2014. Practitioners with an interest in this database of homes are invited to participate in a database focus group at the opening forum of the BuildingEnergy 2013 Conference.

Second, NESEA will produce a white paper to share the best practices and lessons learned from the examples that populate its database. NESEA will share this widely so that architects, engineers, contractors and homeowners have a resource for how best to undertake a zero net energy building project.

Finally, NESEA will provide training, via a 10-week online course. This course will be taught by energy guru Marc Rosenbaum, Director of Engineering at South Mountain Company. Participants will learn how to model and undertake a residential zero net energy project. Students who complete Rosenbaum’s course and subsequently undertake a net zero project will be eligible for tuition reimbursement, as well as an additional stipend if they submit their project into the NESEA database.


Formed in 1976, the mission of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association ( is to advance the adoption of sustainable energy practices in the built environment. NESEA does this by connecting professionals to each other and to information. This organization facilitates collective learning between all of the professional disciplines that contribute to the built environment. NESEA serves architects, planners, engineers, manufacturers, builders and policy analysts in public and private companies in the 10 northeastern states.

About The BuildingEnergy Conference & Trade Show
NESEA will host its signature event, BuildingEnergy13, at the Seaport World Trade Center March 5-7, 2013. This year’s conference theme, retrofitting for resilience, features sessions ranging from emerging trends in renewable energy to deep energy retrofits of commercial, residential and historic buildings. NESEA’s is the only conference that requires its building case studies to adhere to strict guidelines that include a full year of energy data, reaffirming a commitment to present the best building and energy practices at this conference. The conference includes 62 sessions and 25 full‐ and half‐day workshops. The BuildingEnergy Trade Show features 150 exhibitors showcasing the latest sustainable technologies, products, and services.

About the Barr Foundation
The Barr Foundation envisions a vibrant, just, and sustainable world with hopeful futures for children. The Foundation’s mission is to support gifted leaders and networked organizations working in Boston and beyond to enhance educational and economic opportunities, to achieve environmental sustainability, and to create rich cultural experiences - all with particular attention to children and families living in poverty. In its environmental work, the Barr Foundation is focused on helping Boston and Massachusetts meet or exceed their 2020 and 2050 targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and become national models for reducing GHG emissions. Its primary investments aim to achieve emissions reductions from two of their largest sources: buildings and transportation.

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Travis A. Niles
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