Tall & Urban News

Zero-Emission Buildings Redefined by the U.S. Department of Energy

Washington DC. image by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash
Washington DC. image by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash
21 June 2024 | Washington D.C., United States

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently issued a new national definition for zero-emissions buildings, which aims to standardize what qualifies as a net-zero structure. Spearheaded by DOE Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm and supported by building industry professionals, the definition targets buildings owned by public and private entities, excluding federal buildings which follow separate regulations.

According to the DOE, a zero-emissions building is "highly energy efficient, does not emit greenhouse gases directly from energy use, and is powered solely by clean energy." This definition supports President Biden’s goals of reducing U.S. building emissions by 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2050. To qualify, buildings must achieve an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher, or meet alternative criteria if ineligible for an ENERGY STAR score, and must have zero direct GHG emissions, with exceptions for emergency backup generators.

The DOE's new definition, published on EERE Exchange and the Federal Register and accepted in March 2024, provides guidance but is not a regulatory standard. Entities must self-verify compliance with the standards. The DOE anticipates that this definition may evolve to include emissions from building materials and other considerations in the future.

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