When will we exercise zero-carbon building?

Posted by Steve Kleber on Nov 22, 2010

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! When will we exercise zero-carbon building?  Here’s the latest.


I read an article recently about The Weidt Group, a Minnesota design team who presented their prototype for a “zero carbon” office building at the Minnesota American Institute of Architects Convention.

By definition, a zero-carbon structure is a building where net carbon dioxide emissions are zero. Or, perhaps better said, the structure produces all of the energy it needs to operate. Generally, these structures stockpile a surplus of energy in the summer to be used in the colder months. The technology is new, but not unheard of… the UK has set a goal for all new homes to be built zero-carbon by 2016.

While it is clear that Americans desire to adopt energy conservation measures and policies, and our collective “green” efforts have seriously improved, we don’t have a national “zero carbon date” to brag about. True, our appliances have become more energy efficient and we have become smarter about simple energy fixes such as unplugging unused electronics and sealing air ducts and windows. But old habits die hard. As homes have gotten larger, energy consumption remains stagnant despite the increased awareness and new advances in technology. It’s largely a function of our inherent excess. We fill our living rooms with oversized televisions and extra refrigerators for the man cave. We have, true to form, offset our energy efficiency with increased energy use.

The average American home uses 134 kWh/m2/year, the EnergyStar/LEED homes use 85 kWh/m2/year; both numbers far from zero.

I look forward to seeing The Weidt Group’s prototype built, and I hope for similar structures to follow. But as I consider the advances in construction and energy efficiency, it occurs to me that we still have a long way to go, especially at home.

What if we adopted a model similar to the UK, and required all of our new homes to be thoughtfully and efficiently designed? What if every new office building constructed followed The Weidt Group’s prototype, each structure bringing us a step closer to energy independence, and a healthier world. Wouldn’t you buy in?

This entry was posted by Steve Kleber on Monday, November 22nd, 2010 at 4:41 pm and is filed under Green Initiatives, Home Building & Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.