What we learned from the Net Zero buildings experts on our webinar
We kicked off the KLA Climate Solutions Series with an informative and engaging webinar discussion on how local governments can take steps toward implementing Net Zero buildings in their communities -- a critical step to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions at a scale that truly matters for climate action.
Here are four things our panelists said about this high-impact climate solution that caught our attention:
1. The cost to get there is nothing compared to what it will save us long-term.
We know the climate crisis demands action, and action costs money. It’s important to keep in mind, however, the cost of not acting.
Steven Burke mentioned the importance of this perspective when thinking about the initial cost of constructing Net Zero buildings:
“If the premium to save our future is a 3% added cost on a building, we should be able to manage that.”
2. Net Zero buildings are the buildings of the future.
As Meredith Elbaum noted, Net Zero buildings are more resilient buildings. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, resilient communities exactly what we need to face the future.
Constructing buildings to Net Zero standards presents a crucial opportunity to make our buildings healthier and more efficient (not just for the planet, but for us). Passive House standards provide requirements for ventilation and other systems that control air quality and can improve overall health.
3. New buildings are low-hanging fruit, but existing buildings are just as important.
Communities should be driving hard for new construction buildings to meet Net Zero standards, said Lauren Baumann. Making the upfront cost commitment now to build Net Zero can stave off greater costs in the future as we adapt to the climate crisis. And, the cost of constructing lower emissions buildings is lower than you may expect. According to a Massachusetts survey, 85% of net zero ready buildings (across various building types) reported less than a 1% construction cost premium.
However, this doesn’t mean we should just ignore existing buildings. Though it may be a greater challenge, retrofitting older buildings to reduce their emissions is a key step we can’t overlook, said Seth Federspiel -- as the local government voice on the panel, he urged his city/town/county colleagues to consider existing buildings the priority.
4. Community collaboration is key to success.
Seth also highlighted three main takeaways for communities to consider when pursuing Net Zero buildings, especially related to policy.
- Establish consistent stakeholder engagement early in the planning process, with both internal (community planners/permitters) and external stakeholders (developers, technical support, etc.)
- Supplement policies and requirements with resources and support -- including financial, educational/informational, and technical support.
- Collaborate with nearby communities. We all have so much to learn from and offer each other, and working together can help establish regional consistency and encourage involvement from the development community that stretches across borders.
These points just scratch the surface of the wealth of information our panelists covered. Watch the recorded webinar or access the tipsheet here.
We also captured some of the Q&A from the webinar:
both mandates and resources/incentives are needed to decarbonize buildings.