A report by the New Buildings Institute shows the overlap between LEED certification and zero energy.

The New Buildings Institute recently released its "Getting to Zero Status Update and List of Zero Energy (“ZE”) Projects for 2018." This compilation of almost 500 certified, verified and emerging zero energy projects in the U.S. and Canada is the fifth such list published by NBI.

The first list, published in 2012, included 60 zero energy projects, which shows the remarkable growth in market interest and development of zero energy buildings in the past six years. For the first time, the 2018 report also includes information on the LEED status of all zero energy (ZE) projects.

Of the ZE Verified projects, 70 percent are LEED-certified or registered with LEED, with most reaching either Platinum or Gold certification levels. In addition, the report found that 36 percent of the ZE Emerging projects—those either not yet verified as ZE or recently occupied—are LEED-certified or registered with LEED.

How LEED helps achieve zero energy

The significant overlap between ZE buildings and LEED-certified buildings in the NBI list illustrates how LEED specifically promotes features that can help projects reach zero energy goals. Virtually all of the LEED Energy and Atmosphere credits support the advanced energy performance necessary for zero energy.

For example, LEED v4 requires and rewards energy efficiency for a building and its systems via a whole-building energy simulation or prescriptive compliance with ASHRAE or rigorous energy standards and methods. By offering a credit to projects that achieve increasing levels of energy performance beyond standard requirements, LEED v4 encourages aggressive reductions in energy usage, with points awarded proportionally with higher levels of improvement from the baseline. For example, a new construction project that demonstrates a 50 percent reduction in energy usage from the baseline has the opportunity to earn a total of 18 points.

We know from research that most projects go deep with efficiency to rack up points. From requiring building-level energy use monitoring to commissioning, LEED supports energy management practices and identification of opportunities for energy savings.

LEED encourages the self-supply of renewable energy by offering a credit for renewable energy production. A project may earn this credit by demonstrating its use of renewable energy systems to offset building energy costs, while also reducing environmental and economic costs related to fossil fuel use. In addition, there's a LEED pilot credit for the installation of distributed renewable energy generation. One point can be earned if a building can support rooftop photovoltaic technologies and enters into a rooftop lease agreement to provide solar energy for distributed generation, meeting specific requirements.

Apart from these specific strategies, LEED enables projects to reach zero energy by requiring integrative design, which leads to improved overall performance of building systems.

Arc, USGBC’s digital platform for managing and benchmarking performance data, allows all buildings to compare their scores against their peers and to learn about energy savings strategies used elsewhere. With built-in analytics, Arc tracks a building’s net energy use and associated carbon emissions, as well as emissions from building-related transportation.

LEED rewards projects that demonstrate exceptional performance in reducing net energy usage, thereby improving health, reducing environmental impacts and strengthening overall resilience. To learn more about how LEED supports zero energy goals, see our learning pathway Pathway to Net Zero.

Read NBI's Getting to Zero Update and List