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DC Considers Net Zero Building Report


By: E. Lynn Grayson


The District of Columbia (DC) is one of the greenest areas with a number of requirements in place for energy conservation and greener new construction. A new report shows that DC is considering even more aggressive green initiatives than those already on the books. According to new research from the report, it is clear that if an owner has sufficient tax appetite, tax credits and renewable energy credits, the return on green investment is approximately 30%, whereas the return on investment for energy efficiency alone was in the range of 5-12%.

To advance the industry into the next era of green design, DC's Department of the Environment sought to understand the costs and benefits associated with net zero energy, net zero water and Living Buildings. The purpose of the Net Zero and Living Building Challenge Financial Study: A Cost Comparison Report for Buildings in the District of Columbia report was twofold. First, to investigate costs, benefits and approaches necessary to improve building performance in the District of Columbia from LEED Platinum to zero energy, zero water and Living Building status. Second, to advise District government on policy drivers related to deep green buildings and to analyze the opportunities for the District to offer incentives to advance most rapidly toward zero energy, zero water and Living Buildings.

The report concludes a new policy framework is required if the building industry is to embrace net zero and Living Buildings at scale. To accelerate adoption, this research suggests DC develop a comprehensive roadmap that addresses all of the following issues over time and illustrates a clear pathway to DC's aggressive 2032 goals. The roadmap should consider these key recommendations from the study:

  • Define net zero.
  • Consider community-level approaches.
  • Encourage transition to outcome-based energy codes.
  • Establish new and modify existing financial incentives to encourage deep savings.
  • Address limitations of the grid and acknowledge the changing role of utilities.

DC is considering policy and incentive options to go beyond existing mandates for energy conservation and new construction. While the construction premium is high, it appears the economic return may be even greater.

The study is available at