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Harnessing the Power of Data for Zero Net Energy

Photo: Courtesy of Pixabay

As demand for environmentally friendly buildings grows, more planners and developers are working toward an ultimate goal of zero net energy (ZNE). This classification recognizes buildings that meet certain sustainability standards to reduce energy use, utilize eco-friendly materials and minimize their impact on the environment, so that the amount of energy used by the building equals the renewable energy it generates on-site.

According to a report released last quarter by the New Buildings Institute (NBI), there are currently 332 buildings that have been either verified as, or are on their way to, achieving ZNE. That’s a 74 percent increase since the last count, roughly a year before. And 53 projects have now been verified by NBI as having achieved ZNE for at least one full year, up from 33 projects in 2014.

The power of technology

While many factors are contributing to the increase in these sustainable buildings, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, data is a major driver ushering in a new era of green performance.

Advances in technology allow urban developers and construction managers to track energy efficiency and consumption, and capture performance data that informs better decisions and helps prove that financial benefits and environmental benefits go hand in hand.

Data-driven decisions​​​​​​​

In addition to giving users a look at real-time performance so they can uncover opportunities for innovation, data drives green building by creating a holistic picture of sustainability efforts that allows developers to see how their efforts are working and compare them to others in the field. They can also then share that data across teams and with industry colleagues to ensure they’re performing at the highest level.

Data also enables builders to capture data that allows them to set benchmarks for improvement, both within their own projects and against others. Then they can see results based on specific performance indicators. 

To support the utilization of data to achieve ZNE, several platforms have been developed that allow developers to track a wide array of performance data. It’s data initiatives such as these that will continue to enable this focus on energy performance. Because the more that projects harness the power of their data, the more they’ll be able to help buildings, communities and cities around the world benchmark and improve green performance and better our quality of life.

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