Peter Wilson [in a Cambridgewickedlocal with news from the Chronicle and Tab LtE http://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/article/20140220/NEWS/140229717/2014/OPINION] wrote that “Net zero is not a practical goal in New England” and that may or may not be true. There are a number of net zero energy single and two family buildings in NE, including in colder climates than Cambridge like Vermont, although the experience with larger and high rise net zero energy buildings is just beginning. However, there are a few examples that approach net zero, including one in Vienna, Austria, the Raffeisens Bank, a 21 story building built to PassivHaus standards (http://www.viennareview.net/news/ideas-and-trends/raiffeisens-upward-sustainability).
Whether or not net zero is a practical goal, it is an essential thought experiment we need to run. By viewing net zero energy as an approachable goal, the way statistical quality control views zero defects on a production line under Total Quality Management, we will assuredly come across many different ways we can reduce our energy needs, perhaps significantly.
I say we are not going far enough. We should be thinking not only about net zero energy but also zero emissions throughout our infrastructure. We know that pollution causes problems, that pollution is waste, and should be smart enough, wise enough to think about reducing the waste we generate to as close to zero as possible. I like the motto of Zero Waste Europe (http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu), “If you are not for zero waste, how much waste are you for?”
If you are not for net zero energy, how much wasted energy are you for?
However, even if we mandate that all new buildings achieve net zero energy, we still have to fix our existing buildings and probably have to start developing district heating and cooling to become a net zero energy community. This is a hard problem and requires concentrated efforts. Net zero energy for new buildings, if it is achievable (and I believe it is), is still only a start.
Thanks for your time and your work.