Zero Energy Resources


In this section you will find leading examples of policies and goals of states and local jurisdictions (strategic plans, energy plans, and climate action plans), programs working toward zero energy, and state and local jurisdiction energy codes and stretch codes.

Policies and programs have the ability to dramatically change the landscape for zero energy buildings. There is an increasing market interest in zero energy, and policies and programs can foster and grow that interest through leadership, direct support, and the reduction of risks and uncertainties. States and cities are taking the lead on implementing mandatory zero energy policies. Many leading state and local governments are working to pursue goals via methods ranging from standards imposed on government buildings, to codes regulating all new construction within the state. National leaders include California, Washington State, New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Building policies for the federal government within agencies have also made large strides in recognizing the importance of zero energy and working toward this goal. Aggressive targets for building energy use at all levels encourage architects and engineers to design for zero energy. Learn more


This section includes resources on feasibility studies of zero energy on district, state, and national levels; cost studies which address the challenge of zero energy construction within a budget; means of financing a zero energy project and incentive programs to support this; and technologies which drive zero energy design.

As a result of advances in construction technologies, renewable energy systems, and other research, ultra-low and zero energy design is becoming more achievable. Studies find that zero energy is technically feasible for most building types. Methods to achieve zero energy vary by building type, size and location. In all cases, the key strategy is to reduce energy loads as much as possible before introducing renewables. Although much of this technology is widely available, often at a cost comparable to code-minimum systems, many stakeholders still see cost as a major barrier to zero energy buildings. However, studies show that zero energy is a cost effective investment – in many cases a better investment than a code minimum building, and it is even more justifiable when benefits such as health and environmental quality are taken into account. Many financing and incentive options are available from a variety of sources to encourage zero energy design and market growth. Learn more


This section addresses the many definitions of and new vocabulary associated with zero energy; it offers tools available for use by various stakeholders in a zero energy project; and it links to webinars presented by industry experts eager to share their knowledge of zero energy.

Today, zero energy buildings are a rapidly growing trend and are no longer solely demonstration projects and market outliers. Today’s portfolio of zero energy buildings includes a wide range of mainstream building and ownership types. While the technology is readily available, market adoption of zero energy is just beginning. As the concept and understanding of a zero energy building or district spreads, the vocabulary is evolving to better communicate these ideas. Many different metrics are available to measure and compare energy performance. In zero energy projects, there is often one leader who drives the low-energy design. Communicating and encouraging these ideas with other stakeholders and the design team is critical. Zero energy requires an ambitious community of the frontrunners in low-energy design to drive the industry and educate others. Learn more


This section highlights state policies and national programs working toward zero energy schools; districts pursuing zero energy and the strategies they use to achieve this target; feasibility studies, assessment strategies, and other technical looks at zero energy school design; and case studies of successful zero energy school buildings.

Schools represent the ideal building type to lead the market shift toward zero energy buildings. Currently, schools make up the third largest subsector of commercial building energy usage. Many schools face growing populations, aging buildings, constrained operating budgets, and increasing energy bills. The cost of energy is one of few budget items schools can reduce without negatively affecting student learning. A zero energy school presents the opportunity for environmental, economic, and educational benefits including improved indoor air quality, higher attendance rates and teacher retention, valuable educational opportunities, lower maintenance costs, and more stable budgets. Learn more


This toolkit is for states and local jurisdictions looking to reduce energy use and carbon emissions in both their own publicly owned commercial buildings and the general community building stock.

Cities, counties, state agencies, school districts, and other governing bodies can use this toolkit to lead by example by getting on a path to zero energy and carbon in their own buildings and advocating for policies that impact other buildings. Learn more


This toolkit is for homeowners, homebuyers, builders, designers, appraisers, and anyone else interested in zero energy (ZE) homes. A ZE home is an energy efficient house that consumes only as much energy as is generated through clean, renewable resources such as solar power. This collection of research studies, tools, and guides shows the technical and financial feasibility of zero energy and offers guidance for implementation.

Increasing the number of zero energy homes can make a large impact on saving consumers money on monthly utility bills, and reducing carbon emissions that result from electricity production. Zero energy homes are an influential building type to advance the current clean energy movement because homeowners are often the owner, tenant, as well as maintain the home and can control decisions about energy performance. The value to a family is experienced immediately through more comfortable, healthier house with low to no monthly electric bill. An additional benefit is that they will earn an increased profit at the time of sale compared to conventional homes. Learn more