The 2020 Getting to Zero Buildings List released by the New Buildings Institute (NBI) shows a 42% increase in the number of verified and emerging zero energy buildings in North America since 2018. With nearly 700 buildings, the total square footage of zero energy buildings has surpassed 62 million, 39% higher than 2018. The number of verified zero energy buildings more than doubled between 2018 and 2020 in the U.S. and Canada. NBI sees this as an indication that designers are acquiring the necessary expertise to reach zero energy targets set by building owners.

The total number of zero energy projects in NBI's database has increased 42% since 2018. The number of zero-energy-verified projects has more than doubled in that time period. Source: NBIThe total number of zero energy projects in NBI's database has increased 42% since 2018. The number of zero-energy-verified projects has more than doubled in that time period. Source: NBI

For a building to be “verified” as zero energy, it must be ultra-low-energy and consume only the amount of energy it produces using clean renewable resources. Projects must provide 12 months of measured energy use and renewable energy production data for consideration. A building that has a goal of zero energy but has not yet been completed or attained that level of performance is considered “emerging” zero energy.

"In the United States, where buildings are responsible for nearly 30% of the nation's carbon emissions, zero energy buildings will continue to play an important role as we transition to a low-carbon economy," says Ralph DiNola, CEO of NBI. "Because so many of the zero energy buildings we are tracking run entirely on electricity and include on-site renewable energy generation, they are proving to be a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions, achieve deep energy savings, and improve the indoor air quality of homes and commercial buildings."

According to the 2020 Getting to Zero Buildings List, while projects are mainly found in California and the Northeastern U.S., particularly states with ambitious climate action goals, projects exist in all climate zones and nearly every state and province. Zero energy buildings outside the dominant regions grew by more than 20% over the last two years.

Strong growth continues in both public and private sectors. Public buildings such as government offices, libraries, schools and universities account for a significant portion of the list. Large companies that have completed zero energy projects include IKEA, Walmart, Google, Apple and Amazon. A number of corporations have also set or committed to setting science-based emissions reduction targets.

Twenty percent of the buildings on NBI’s Getting to Zero Buildings List are “verified.” This represents the largest percentage to date. Verified buildings consume about half the energy of comparable buildings, with a median energy use intensity (EUI) of 20 kBtu per square foot per year. The remaining energy demand is fulfilled with renewable resources.

Submitting a project to the Getting to Zero Database simply requires reporting EUI and renewable production intensity (RPI) numbers. Approved users can find project details, such as location, building size and type, through an interactive search and sort tool.

NBI's 2020 Getting to Zero Buildings List is North America's most comprehensive record of zero energy and ultra-low-energy buildings. Additional resources are available at the Getting to Zero website. Learn more about Portland-based New Buildings Institute at www.newbuildings.org.