Department of Energy Tackles Zero Net Energy Buildings

Event: Are High-Performance Buildings Really Performing? A Discussion with Drury B. Crawley
Location: Con Edison, 09.08.2009
Speakers: Drury B. Crawley, AIA — Technology Development Manager, U.S. Department of Energy
Organizers: ASHRAE; Urban Green Council


U.S. Department of Energy’s 2025 Goal.

Courtesy Net Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative

No matter how often they’re repeated, the statistics stun. Responsible for 40% of all energy consumed in the U.S., buildings are the nation’s largest energy drain, beating out both transportation and industry. They use 73% of our electricity and 55% of our natural gas. At 9% of the total carbon dioxide released into the world’s atmosphere, their direct contribution to global warming exceeds that of the combined economies of Japan, France, and the United Kingdom. And, emphasized Drury B. Crawley, head of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Net Zero Commercial Building Initiative, the problem is only getting worse.

Crawley is confident that flat-lining buildings’ energy use is technically possible, but stressed that there is no magic bullet. Plastering the nation in photovoltaics is not enough; instead, designers and scientists need to develop a better understanding of the specific consumption patterns of individual buildings and the people who use them, and strategize accordingly.

While a number of recent bills have established firm deadlines for weaning American buildings off energy, Crawley expressed concern that on-the-ground activity was not keeping pace with legislative ambitions. Responding to the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act requirement that all new commercial buildings be at zero consumption by 2030, followed by 100% of the remaining stock by 2050, he remarked, “I’m glad I won’t be working. There are a lot of buildings out there.”