Analysis of Zero-Net Energy Districts: End Use, Urban Density and Energy Efficiency Prospects

Ciera Shaver, Architecture

Second Place: Graduate Disciplinary Research Presentation

Abstract: This project proposes the use of Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) data, Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) data, and other locally collected data to analyze current and future predicted energy usage at an urban scale. Today, engineers and architects are able to execute zero-net energy design at the building scale; however, this technique may only be suitable for specific structures within specified urban areas. If energy flows and end uses were better understood and known at a higher level of detail, groups of buildings may be able to better function as a whole zero-net energy system rather than as individual zero-net units.  This is fundamental in order to achieve zero-net energy at any scale. The paper proposes a method of analysis to quickly identify total energy consumption as well as end uses without detailed utility data collection at individual sites. The method is applied to a case study using a portion of the central business district of Boise, Idaho. The data gathered are used to predict energy consumption of the district when considering selected variables including density, energy efficiency, and renewable energy generation. Each variable includes two levels in addition to the current baseline. The data show that it is possible for the area of interest to increase in density while maintaining and reducing total energy use. Adding renewable energy to the mix reduces the total demand of energy resources from off-site production. With further research discussed in the literature review it may be possible to capture even more wasted energy through district systems, approaching or meeting the zero-net goal. The proposed alternatives of an increase in density, an increase in energy efficiency, and the introduction of renewable energy did not allow the district to achieve a zero-net energy status.