Building developers are pushing the limits by trying to construct a net-zero energy structure in the middle of downtown Seattle. The Daily Journal of Commerce reports that a net-zero energy building is a structure that generates 100 percent of its own energy needs using on-site renewable resources and technology on a net annual basis.
The Pacific Northwest comes with a host of potential roadblocks that could hinder a building's ability to achieve net-zero status. The primary hurdle is the lack of sunny days, which can make accumulating solar power difficult. According to the news source, Seattle has 226 gray days per year on average, and those lackluster days can make solar panels less effective. However, as technology has advanced and supporting energy efficient devices have developed, even a building in Seattle can achieve a net-zero energy use with the help of solar power.
Using photovoltaic cells on the roof of a building can generate usable energy even when it is cloudy. In the example mentioned by the news source, the building's system is expected produce 230,000 kilowatt hours every year.
In addition to including modern solar technology that allows for greater creation of energy, developers incorporated the use of energy efficient technology like radiant floor heating into the structure's design. The sustainable heating system runs on less energy than traditional technologies like forced hot air, while providing exceptional warmth and comfort.
By installing piping under the floors that transmits steady heat, developers were able to reduce the amount of energy the solar panels had to accumulate to successfully run the property. Radiant heating is a high-performance option that allows residential and commercial building owners reduce energy costs without suffering quality.