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Zero Energy Buildings

Steven G. Liescheidt, P.E., CCS, CCPR

Course Outline

This one hour online course discusses how a net zero-energy building is a residential or commercial building with greatly reduced energy needs through efficiency gains such that the balance of energy needs can be supplied with renewable technologies.  Four well-documented definitions—net-zero site energy, net-zero source energy, net-zero energy costs, and net-zero energy emissions—are studied; pluses and minuses of each are discussed.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, the student will learn about:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for mechanical and energy engineers.

Benefit for Attendee

Attendee of this course will be able to understand the basics and various definitions of Zero Energy Buildings (ZEB’s).

Course Introduction

In concept, a net Zero Energy Building is a building with greatly reduced energy needs through efficiency gains such that the balance of the energy needs can be supplied by renewable technologies. Despite the use of the phrase “zero energy,” in this course material; there is a lack of a common definition or a common understanding of what it means. This course material uses a sample of current generation low-energy buildings to explore the concept of zero energy, what it means, why a clear and measurable definition is needed, and progression toward the Zero Energy Building goal.

Course Content

This course is primarily based on the Technical Report  NREL/TP-550-41957, December 2007 “Assessment of the Technical Potential for Achieving Net Zero-Energy Buildings in the Commercial Sector"

Zero Energy Buildings

Please click on the above underlined hypertext to view, download or print the document for your study. Because of the large file size, we recommend that you first save the file to your computer by right clicking the mouse and choosing "Save Target As ...", and then open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you still experience any difficulty in downloading or opening this file, you may need to close some applications or reboot your computer to free up some memory.

Course Summary

Each of the leading-edge case study buildings in this course source document demonstrates the progress toward achieving Zero Energy Building goals in real-world examples.  The zero energy definition affects how buildings are designed to achieve the goal. The definition can emphasize energy efficiency, supply-side strategies, purchased energy sources, utility rate structures, or whether fuel-switching and conversion accounting can help meet the goal.

Related Links

For additional technical information related to this subject, please visit the following websites:

United States Green Building Council –
US Department of Energy –
National Renewable Energy Laboratory –


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.