Net Zero Energy Design

What Is Net Zero Energy Design?

Net zero energy buildings are the epitome of energy-efficiency. These incredibly green buildings not only use very limited amounts of energy, they actually produce as much (or sometimes more) than they use. With the high prices of heating oil, electricity and natural gas in the New York area, building a net zero energy home is a long-term financial investment with a guaranteed return. As a Long Island green architecture firm, our team at Paul Cataldo Architecture & Planning PC is well-equipped to help determine if a net zero energy design is the right choice for your next building project.

Net zero energy design can be applied to all kinds of construction, including single-family green home design, apartment buildings, and commercial green buildings. While intelligent use of space is important, a building doesn’t have to be tiny to achieve net zero energy.

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Solar panels can allow homes to produce, not just consume, energy. Photo credit: Tim Fuller

Are Net Zero Homes Off the Grid?

Net zero energy homes and buildings aren’t usually off-the-grid. In fact, most Long Island net zero buildings are connected to the grid and maintain a give-and-take relationship, selling excess energy back to PSEG in a process called net metering.

During more extreme weather, a net zero energy building might need to use power from the grid for heating or cooling, but at many times, the building actually gives power back to the grid. In those situations, PSEG will credit a homeowner’s account with energy credits to be used in times of shortage. Homeowners only need pay for the daily charge for service to the power lines and meter.

That’s why net zero energy design isn’t limited to sunny deserts or vast stretches of windy farmland. Even in climates with great seasonal fluctuations in temperature, like Long Island, this kind of give-and-take relationship with the power grid makes net zero energy buildings possible. For example, even on a small, shady building site on Long Island, our team designed a successful net zero energy home in Northport, NY.

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A net zero energy home designed by Paul Cataldo Architecture & Planning PC in Northport, NY.

Strategies to Achieve Net Zero Energy

Net zero energy projects are a lot more involved than simply installing a few solar panels on the roof; careful planning is essential from the first stages of design. Attention is paid to many details in the design process and during ​​construction management, with the goal of adding up to a net zero energy building.

  • Passive solar design: Generally, passive solar design principles are employed as the first step in creating a net zero energy building. The placement of the home on the building site, its insulation strategy, the location of doors and windows, and ​sustainable landscape design are carefully orchestrated to take advantage of the natural heating and cooling patterns of sun, shade, and earth.
  • Capturing energy on-site: Usually, solar panels (along with small wind turbines), are the easiest and most affordable methods of creating energy at a net zero energy home or building—both for the building’s own use, and for giving back to the grid when a surplus is created.
  • Choosing insulation to leverage thermal mass: Thermal mass is the reason why super insulation methods like structurally insulated panels and insulated concrete forms are so effective. Some materials, like concrete, retain, absorb, store, and release heat energy more effectively than others.

Interested in building a net zero energy home or​ ​commercial project? ​Contact us ​today to learn how we can help!

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