Meet our Leaders Circle Zero Energy Firms


Leaders Circle firms in the Zero Energy Leaders category have proven their passion, knowledge, and innovation for designing zero energy (ZE) buildings–those that produce as much energy as they consume through renewable resources.

Firms in this category have at least one verified project in NBI’s Getting to Zero Buildings Database. Verification involves NBI’s independent review of 12-months of energy use and renewable production data confirming an energy use intensity (EUI) of “0” or less.



Click on any of our Leaders Circle firms below to learn more about their work:






VMDO Architects designs community-centered environments that connect people and place through design. In two offices in Charlottesville, VA, and Washington, DC, VMDO’s 75+ employees support the firm’s educational design practice areas of K-12 Schools, Higher Education, and Athletics + Community. VMDO believes in the power of design to educate, inspire, and uplift. The firm has focused the entirety of its practice on designing high performing learning environments and transformational projects that help clients realize their highest aspirations for their communities

As architects, VMDO believes in the opportunity – and the responsibility – to challenge conventional thinking, to achieve more than what’s considered possible, and to demonstrate real and inspiring solutions to the challenges we face today. The firm holds itself to a high standard and measures success through tangible results related to net zero energy, high performance building, and health and wellness initiatives across all projects.

Alice West Fleet Elementary, Arlington, VA  |  Designed by: VMDO  |  Photo by: Alan Karchmer

Notable Projects:



Maclay Architects designs buildings and communities that are models for healthy, inspired living, advancing to a carbon neutral and ecologically sustainable future. Since 1971, the firm’s designs incorporate energy and resource conservation, renewable energy, optimal indoor air quality, healthy building technologies and materials, and environmentally responsive land use. Maclay Architects creates beautiful, functional spaces for people to live and work by listening to their clients’ needs and aspirations.

The firm’s focus on sustainability is not new. It has been the primary focus for over 40 years. Its work is founded on the broad aspects of ecologically based net zero/net positive design and focuses on healthy building design, building science, historic sensitivity, renewable energy production, and biophilic, nature based, living buildings that act as organisms and ecosystems.

The Putney School Field House, Putney, VT  |  Designed by: Maclay Architects  |  Photo by: Jim Westphalen

Notable Projects:




Perkins Eastman is a global architecture firm that has grown to include over 1,000 employees working out of a combined 17 interdisciplinary offices around the world. From education and healthcare to mixed-use and transit-oriented developments, Perkins Eastman designs for a sustainable and resilient future, and to enhance the human experience through the built environment.

The firm’s practice is founded on the idea that design can have a direct and positive impact on people’s lives. This is achieved through research and innovation, always questioning the status quo and tireless effort to understand our clients’ missions and operations. By focusing on the user experience and drawing on the firm’s vast roster of design and thought leaders, Perkins Eastman is uniquely equip to tackle the most complex design challenges, no matter how large or small.

Tobin Montessori School and Vassal Lane Upper School, Cambridge, MA  |  Designed by: Perkins Eastman  |  Image rendering: Perkins Eastman

Notable Projects:

  • Tobin Montessori School and Vassal Lane Upper School




CMTA is a national engineering firm with 400+ employees and 15 offices across the US. CMTA has been a pioneer in engineering zero energy buildings for decades, and understands how difficult changing paradigms can be. They are true partners who are vested in the long-term success of their buildings, which is measured by exceeding the expectations of building owners and managers and maintaining the health and comfort of the occupants. CMTA has leveraged their expertise in high performance, energy-efficient design into a nationwide practice that includes Consulting Engineering, Performance Contracting and Zero Energy Design, Technology Solutions, and Commissioning Services. They are Data Driven, Results Proven. CMTA has collected over two decades of actual utility data on their projects to continually improve their approach. This database and their years of high-performance design experience mean they understand how to make these buildings a reality without extra first costs.

Cincinnati District 3 Police Headquarters, Cincinnati, OH  |  Designed by: Emersion Design  |  Photo by: Dish Design, LLC

Notable Projects:

Ecotope‘s mission is to counteract the climate crisis with research-proven engineering and visionary leadership. Ecotope drives the building industry toward transformative and scalable low-carbon solutions, informed by four decades of learning and technical innovation. Its clients seek holistic designs that optimize energy efficiency and are in harmony with with the future grid.

Ecotope has been providing energy conservation, consulting, and engineering services in the Pacific Northwest for over 40 years. It is a partner-owned small business and offers expertise on all aspects of energy efficiency in high performance buildings including heating and cooling systems, ventilation systems, water conservation, controls, building envelope performance, alternative energy systems, and system interactions.

Skokomish Community Center, Skokomish, Washington | Engineered by: Ecotope | Photo by: Doug Walker

Notable Projects:

  • HopeWorks Station Phase 2
  • Skokomish Community Center




Pankow has operated continuously since 1963, shaping skylines, creating great places to live, work, learn and play, rehabilitating historical resources and building green. With their deep-rooted reputation for a collaborative, innovative, and efficient approach to building, Pankow is unwavering in their drive to help clients succeed. Pankow builds long-lasting relationships with clients and collaborators through the quality of their people, service, and work.

For Pankow, sustainability is not an add-on. From day one, Pankow integrates sustainability into cost, schedule, and quality efforts. Like the benefits of integrated project delivery, their focus on integrated sustainability results in reduced cost and schedule, increased safety and quality. Their process is backed by proven tools, project experience, and a corporate culture that strongly embraces sustainability.

UC Davis Jess Jackson Winery Building, Davis, California  |  Built by: Pankow  |  Photo by: Guttmann & Blaevoet

Notable Projects:

For WRNS Studio, beauty is about bringing pleasure to the senses and conjuring emotion as one inhabits or moves through a space. As long time advocates of sustainable design, they explore ways to conserve resources while promoting health and wellbeing for both the people who will occupy their buildings and the communities in which they reside. To develop a resonant sustainable design response, WRNS Studio uncovers and makes evident an organization’s core values. As urban designers and architects who have spent their careers working with public agencies, schools, universities, non-profit organizations, and developers, they think a lot about the public realm—how it might be enriched, and how it might inform one’s experience of the new places they craft. With cross market experience—workplace, residential, retail, hospitality, education, civic/ cultural, and transportation—they know how to create distinct offerings that meet expectations for seamless connection to amenities, transit, and nature.

The Janet Durgin Guild and Commons, Santa Rosa, CA | Designed by: WRNS Studio | Photo by: Michael David Rose, Celso Rojas

Notable Projects:

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