Net Zero Projects Rise, Rhode Island Building Leads the Way

According to New Buildings Institute, the number of net zero projects doubled from 2012 to 2014. Yet confusion around the term “net zero” prevents it from reaching its full potential, an even wider, faster adoption across the country. So what does it mean for a building to be net zero? The Department of Energy defines a net zero building as “an energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.” This means that through the integration of building efficiency and renewable energy applications, a net zero building’s annual energy usage is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy it creates on-site. Incorporating these features and techniques can help combat rising energy costs as well as reduce the impacts of climate change, and several states are already making the move towards net zero policies.

A great example of a net zero ready building* is the state-of-the-art Paul W. Crowley East Bay MET Center of Newport, situated in Newport, Rhode Island. This net zero ready educational facility houses a variety of innovative learning practices, particularly in the fields of sustainability and green building technologies. Its energy-efficient building design features a number of high-performance strategies that contribute to its net zero ready reputation.

The rooftop utilizes R-40 insulation, the walls with R-12.2 + R-18 walls above grade, and R-10 walls below grade. The building also features high-performance glazing systems, with a window-to-wall ratio of 35%. LED lighting with advanced controls is integrated with the building energy management system, delivering a lighting power density of 0.59 watts per square foot. A continuous air and vapor barrier reduces the amount of uncontrolled air movement through the building envelope, emboldened with the help of demand control ventilation with energy recovery. Additional features of advanced mechanical equipment design are at work, such as ground source heat pumps and a high efficiency boiler. Domestic hot water is utilized with the help of solar panels and electric backup, as well as variable frequency drives for distribution pumps.

Each of these energy-efficient components plays an important role in comprising the Paul W. Crowley East Bay MET Center’s net zero ready status, making it a landmark for sustainability and enduring energy savings.

Design and construction services for this net zero facility were implemented by:
• Robinson Green Beretta – Project Management, Architect
• Stantec – Mechanical and Electrical Engineers
• Gilbane – Construction Manager

Curious about how your building can become the next model for net zero? For more information, call 844-280-4327 or visit

*Renewable energy capability in progress.

Mona Chandra, AIA, LEED AP
Lead Analyst, Program Strategy Policy and Evaluation RI, NationalGrid