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Net Zero Energy Buildings, the Way of the Future?

Photo Courtesy of Leila Seppa Photography

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a talk that was being held at the headquarters of DPR Construction in San Francisco. The discussion was all about net zero building practices and the general trend towards energy efficient design and building. What better place to have this discussion than in San Francisco’s first Certified Net Zero Energy Commercial Building. The panel was made up of several industry leaders in this particular field as well as the well renowned author Chip Conley.

As our industry gradually begins to acknowledge the importance of green energy practices, the term Net Zero Energy or Zero Net Energy may still be unfamiliar to many of you, which is why a definition is warranted. The Wikipedia definition of a Net Zero Energy building is a building with “zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site, or by other renewable energy sources elsewhere.”

The recent success of the UN Climate Summit, is just another example of how the green movement is gaining momentum, not just on a global scale, but also right here at home in the Bay Area as it relates to real estate. In many ways this movement is still in its infancy when compared to more environmentally progressive countries in Europe for example, but our local awareness is ever increasing. While awareness is the first step towards change, actual tangible applications as they relate to common construction practices is a must. The panel, several of whom such as Kevin Bates and Peter Rumsey who are directly involved in architecture/construction, are not only witnessing the shift towards net zero construction practices, but are implementing this into their very own designs. A prime example of an institution willing to shift towards a net zero built environment is the Esalen Campus. With the aid of Arkin Tilt Architects, an entire overhaul and redesign of the Esalen campus is in full swing with the aim of becoming a net zero energy establishment. Many other bigger and better known names such as Apple and Google are on the forefront of incorporating such building practices into their buildings and office locations.

The primary misnomer is that building green is always more costly than the status quo methods of construction, but fortunately that is not necessarily true anymore. Although the construction and incorporation of green building features such as solar paneling, wind harnessing mechanisms, improved HVAC, insulation, and lighting systems, can still result in higher initial construction costs, many buildings than incorporate such technologies will in turn demand a higher per square foot rent or resale value. And this does not even take into account the reduced energy costs or in the resale of energy back to the power grid.

As a realtor I am very encouraged to see the heightened level of consciousness as it relates to these issues, not just from an altruistic and purely environmental approach, but also from a more pragmatic, economical standpoint. And it is exactly the latter reasons that will encourage more and more people in the industry to take part in this inevitable progression. As a realtor I always encourage my clients to make their home as energy efficient or least wasteful as possible. Be it through the use of simple technologies such as a Nest thermostat, low flow toilets, double pane windows, on demand water heaters, etc., to more costly options such a solar panels. It’s truly a win-win situation. Your home’s efficiency will save you money in the long run if you are residing there, and if you are selling your home, I can assure you that it will not only appeal to the modern home buyer, but will also result in a higher return on investment!

Ary Assadi East Bay Modern Real Estate 415-216-5653

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