Today, the term “Net Zero” is a common one throughout the architectural and building/construction industries. The concept of designing and constructing a home or building that produces as much energy as it consumes is an attractive way to help reduce energy-related costs as well as protect against future energy cost increases.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation states that a net zero energy (NZE) home does not necessarily have to be “off grid” since there can still be a connection to the electricity power grid. This allows for the supply of electricity back to the power grid should the building produce more energy than it requires.
A net-zero-energy house should not be regarded as a single technology but a collection of closely integrated technologies. An essential principle of the zero-energy design and building process is whole-house integration— careful planning to make all the components work together to achieve maximum energy savings
While net zero design and construction has a focus on energy efficiency and energy generation through renewable sources, it should be noted that it could include materials and technologies that contribute to indoor air quality, indoor comfort, conservation of natural resources and the reduction of environmental impact.
Why consider Net Zero Design & Construction?
In addition to the aforementioned reduction in energy costs and protection against future energy costs, there are other benefits that a net zero home can offer including:
- Great resilience, by way of offering shelter during power failures since little energy is required to operate the building and stay warm
- Reduce the impact on the environment due to a reduction in energy-related pollution and emissions
- Quieter, more comfortable spaces to work and/or live
Can spray foam insulation contribute to a net zero home?
Spray foam insulation such as Icynene provides both thermal insulating value and air sealing properties in one step. By applying into wall cavities, crawlspaces and attic roofs to create a tighter building envelope, the probability of air loss is significantly reduced. The air sealing properties of spray foam insulation helps minimize air loss, thereby allowing heating and cooling equipment to perform more optimally without excessive energy consumption.
The American Chemistry Council states that spray foam insulation is a suitable fit for net zero designs. Together with its high R-value, spray foam insulation offers an energy efficiency boost to net zero designs and construction as well as playing a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A 3,600 sq. ft. house in Connecticut featured in Farm House Style, chose Icynene spray foam for its high R-value and moisture control properties. The house, believed to be the first net zero energy home in Connecticut at its construction, does not require fossil fuels for heating or hot water, nor does it require electricity from the local utility company.
There are many ways to get to net zero. Through the use of various building materials, design principles and technologies, architects can create - or work towards – a net zero building. Spray foam insulation is just one building material that can help contribute to the end result.