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Innovation Center: Achieving Net-Zero Energy

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Design ProcessPassive PerformanceThermal ComfortOccupant Engagement

Achieving Net-Zero Energy

A net zero energy building is an efficient building that produces as much energy on-site with renewables as it requires over the course of a year.  While the concept may be simple, there are a variety of paths one can take to get there.

How can a 15,610 square foot building in a harsh mountain climate achieve ‘beyond net-zero energy,’ LEED Platinum, and Passive House certification? The answer is integrative design.

Integrative design uses simple and passive design technologies and techniques instead of complex and active systems, which usually cost more in the long run and consume more energy. Integrative design is most successful when you have a shared goal in mind, and align your design process and team to achieve these goals.

Graph: By focusing on achieving aggressive levels of energy efficiency first through integrative design, the RMI Innovation Center can produce enough energy through the solar panels on its rooftop to power the entire building plus six electric vehicles. Photo Courtesy of PAE


Integrative design requires a focus first on reducing energy demand, then on supply. Reducing demand through energy efficiency and passive design elements traditionally costs less than adding energy supply. A good designer seeks technologies and techniques to achieve an end goal (such as comfort) requiring little or no energy.

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