District of Columbia Studies Net-Zero Building Practices

WASHINGTON — A new study released by the District of Columbia Department of the Environment details how the district can best craft policy and create incentives to build zero energy, zero water and Living Buildings.

Entitled “Net Zero and Living Building Financial Study: A Cost Comparison Report for Buildings in the District of Columbia,” the research was conducted by the New Buildings Institute, International Living Future Institute and Sweden-headquartered Skanska.

“The findings in this report are eye-opening. It presents us with a policy framework that will help us achieve our goal to slash energy use to half of what it was in 2010 by 2032, and provides us with the data to back it up,” said Bill Updike, green building specialist for the District Department of the Environment, in a statement. “The District has a history of leading on progressive green building policies. This report will aid our efforts to further advance the building industry toward more resilient, restorative facilities.”

Key findings of the study include:

• For a 1 percent to 3 percent added initial cost of construction, new developments in the district could save up to 60 percent of their energy consumption.
• The return on investment for energy efficiency is 6 percent to 12 percent and rises to 33 percent to 36 percent when modeled for net-zero energy using solar power.
• Advanced water conservation measures to reduce water consumption and stormwater runoff from the buildings cost 1 percent to 3 percent, conserve 45 to 60 percent of the water usage and have a return on investment of 5 percent to 10 percent
• Stormwater retention measures included in the costs mentioned above eliminate storm water runoff from most storm events and allow buildings to retain water during catastrophic storms, thus helping to make the District more resilient.

The report also identifies several practices and actions that can move the district’s sustainable efforts forward.

“At the institute, we are constantly asking ourselves and all those we encounter, ‘what does a good building look like? What does it do and not do,’” said Richard Graves, executive director of the International Living Future Institute, in a statement. “The answers have varied from year to year and place to place. Whatever the circumstances, people have been very clear that good must continue to evolve from resilience to restoration.”