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Achieving Net Zero: Sustainability and Energy Consumption In The Built Environment

Today’s most coveted energy certification is Net Zero —meaning a building has achieved an annual balance between energy demand and energy creation. Net Zero is achieved by reducing, reclaiming, absorbing, and generating energy through a variety of advanced architectural, design, engineering, and technological methods.

Unlike prior sustainability certifications, Net Zero certification is not done through energy modeling. The final certification process requires a full year of operation and is based on the actual performance of the building. Implementing the appropriate monitoring and metering systems to provide this performance data must be integrated into the project scope and verified as part of the project commissioning process.

MGAC had the privilege of working on a three-year project for the Net Zero and LEED Platinum renovation of the American Geophysical Union’s Washington, DC headquarters. The building is slated to be the first and only Net Zero renovation project in the nation’s capital with 100% onsite generation of renewable power.

The project is being completed on the heels of new and highly progressive legislation in DC regarding energy efficiency and sustainability requirements for future design and construction projects. Signed into effect on January 18th, the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act calls for cutting DC’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2032, putting the onus on property owners to carefully consider their energy consumption.


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