What is Net Zero?

It’s a concept that could add up to a more sustainable future

A net zero home produces as much energy as it consumes. That doesn’t mean that it exists off the grid. Instead, it exists in a balance with the grid. It uses energy sparingly and when it generates surplus power, feeds it back into the grid.

More importantly, these homes are about to become more common. The federal government has set 2030 as the year when the National Building Code will be ”net zero ready.” That means the rules and regulations that govern construction will support net-zero buildings. Those buildings will include offices and multi-residential complexes as well as homes.

This ambitious goal is in line with what is happening in other parts of the world. The U.K. has declared a goal of 2050 to achieve net zero carbon emissions. California has set 2020 as the year when all new residential construction will be net zero. By 2030, the same will be true of all new commercial building projects in the state. 

The focus is on the future, but net-zero is not exactly a new concept. In 2013, Natural Resources Canada launched a pilot project that saw 12 builders take on net zero projects across the country. Avalon Master Builders led the charge in Calgary where it has been building net zero homes since 2008. 

Net zero principles are also at work in larger projects. In 2015, the first net zero office building opened in Edmonton. The changes to the building code are a key to that. Other builders, including Mattamy Homes, have also built net zero homes.

The key now is to scale up these efforts. That will be achieved with a combination of government and industry initiatives. The Canadian Home Builders Association has established the Net Zero Energy Housing Council. The council’s mandate is to work toward this goal by sharing information, creating a labelling system and other initiatives.

These initiatives means that net zero buildings will become increasingly common. And that means, far from being a zero-sum game, net zero adds up to a sustainable future.

July 9th, 2019

It’s not off the grid, but a net zero home is ahead of the game.