Scientific American (08/21/15) Patterson, Brittany
The number of Zero Net Energy (ZNE) residential and commercial buildings in the U.S. has doubled between 2012 and 2014, according to the New Buildings Institute, which notes many are located in California. ZNE buildings greatly reduce utility bills, making them a boon for low-income families such as Spring Lake, a complex of ZNE townhomes and apartments built for agricultural workers and their families by Mutual Housing in Sacramento. “I've heard amazing stories from many homeowners that they've thrown away their inhalers after living in homes like this and amazing stories of negative utility bills,” says the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Sam Rashkin. “This is where we think the industry is going.” DOE operates Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH), and Spring Lake was the first multi-home project to receive a ZERH certification. Most new buildings are expected to be ZNE in the next 15 years, says Ryan Colker, director of the Consultative Council of the National Institute of Building Sciences. California has set a goal of having all new homes achieve ZNE by 2020 and all new businesses by 2030. Finding funding for ZNE building projects is difficult for small developers and those working with underserved populations. Mutual Housing in Sacramento has found funding from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help support its ZNE developments.