Does your green building have what it takes?
1. Occupied buildings in the Northeast only
That means the six New England states plus New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
2. Continuous occupancy
Your building should be fully occupied during the 12-month period for which supporting data is provided.
You must have documented the building’s net-zero energy usage for a 12-month period of full occupancy.
Your project should achieve net zero in ways that are reasonably easy to replicate. Widespread adoption of best practices is the goal.
Conservation is encouraged, of course. But idiosyncratic behaviors such as living with very low thermostat settings are hard to take seriously. If you submit an uncommonly low power demand, you may be asked to provide an itemized list of appliance loads.
6. Site visit/audit
Sometimes, one or more of our judges requests a site visit, so you should be prepared for that. If this is deemed necessary, we will contact you to arrange a time that works for everyone.
7. Open house
All entrants are asked to be part of NESEA’s annual Green Buildings Open House (GBOH) tour in the year after they apply. GBOH is on the first Saturday in October. For details on what being a host site entails, visit the GBOH pages.
Good on all of that? Then read on.
Qualify by getting to zero with best practices
To qualify, your building must demonstrate operation at zero net energy—using no more energy than produced—for a full year. For the purposes of this award, NESEA has adopted the National Renewable Energy Laboratory definition: “Zero net energy buildings reduce energy load to the minimum practical level, then capture on-site the required amount of renewable energy to satisfy remaining needs.”
- Detail for us the energy consumed and produced, via the Zero Net Energy Performance Data Forms, in the Forms section
- On-site energy storage is permitted
- Grid storage of energy produced by the site is fine so long as it is documented and the end effect is net zero or better
While brute force—i.e. large PV or wind—will satisfy the math, the Zero Net Energy Building Award is intended to recognize and encourage superior design. Superior design, by any sustainable definition, requires little energy. A modest PV array should suffice. It’s more about the building and occupant priorities than about PV or other renewable energy solutions, as important as they are.
The rest of the story: other criteria
Of the buildings that qualify, the judges will select the best. “The best” can be quite subjective, so NESEA and the Zero Net Energy Building Award advisory committee developed the list of evaluation criteria below. Our intent is not to prescribe, but to ensure that the most important criteria are considered. The summary is this: we’re looking for replicable designs with stellar mechanical systems, models of sustainability that inspire and educate. For more detail, download the Zero Net Judging Matrix in the Forms section.
- Stellar systems Building envelope, heating, cooling, lighting, water/sewage, or other major components.
- Energy consumption Rating without renewables.
- Power cost Competitive or exotic costs of PV, solar thermal, other renewable, and so on.
- Replicability That is, buildable by existing trades, with available materials. To have widespread impact, best practices need to be adopted by the construction industry at large.
- Architectural design
- Marketability Public acceptance, including curb appeal, aesthetics.
- Building function How well suited is the building to its intended function? For example as a single-family, multifamily, library, office, what have you.
- Location climate issues Characteristics of the site, heating and cooling degree days.
- Efficient use of space
- Cost and size Total project and cost/sq. ft.