Unintended Consequences of Current Net Zero Energy Building Practice
Within the built environment, the current term “Net Zero Energy” is often used to describe the balance in the operating energy of the building. Other forms of energy use besides the operating energy—relating to the transport of building materials, manufacturing, construction, repair, and maintenance—are normally not counted. However, the original concept of “net energy,” as used in the field of ecological economics, has a very different meaning. (Hernandez et al, 2010) In ecological economics, net energy relates to the whole life cycle energy accounting of an object or system and includes all the stages mentioned above, instead of focusing on the operating/use phase alone. While the high efficient building such as net zero energy building is a global trend and will help us to achieve the 80% carbon emission reduction by 2030, however, the attention to energy performance need to be broaden up in order to avoid unintended consequences. In this paper, an overall analysis is given of three key inadvertent consequences of the present-day net-zero movement in the built environment: the life cycle environmental impact caused by neglecting embodied energy, societal impact due to several characterizations of net-zero energy building, and overall ecological degradation caused by a sole focus on energy counting.
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