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Zeroing in on net zero

- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Architects Smith Metzger

Many buildings are being touted as “net zero energy buildings.” Energy is still used but produced on site to offset usage; therefore, the net energy used is zero or less.

Justin Doyle, local developer and president of Modus Engineering, has delved into net zero on his Market One building on East Third Street.

Now that it has been up and running for over a year, how is it doing and what are the lessons learned from the process?

Justin says: “Net zero is not a destination but a journey. There are months that are net zero and some months that are not. We created design energy models based on assumptions. The trick is to operate the building in line with the assumptions.”

Over 750 measuring devices are located in the building, but someone has to analyze the info and determine why more energy is being used. 

Operational issues that have occurred to not reach net zero have been:


  • A bank of solar panels was turned off for maintenance and not turned back on. It took several weeks to realize it was not clouds reducing solar panel output. Two weeks of production were lost.
  • Space heaters under desks were left on 24/7 rather than turned off at night. Analysis of plug loads showed excess usage in one area, and the problem was tracked down.
  • The thermostat was adjusted because someone was hot or cold and not reset at 5:00.

Justin added, “Even though we have attracted like-minded tenants, the net zero journey is all about monitoring the usage of energy and being active in the operations on a weekly basis.”

Let me know if you are ready to go “net zero." Email me at smith.r@cmbaarchitects.com.

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