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Building scientists often disagree on how best to define ZNEB construction (also called “net-zero”). Should it be measured by total energy consumed and produced on-site, or by net CO2 emissions? Should a ZNE home simply be “off the grid,” and independent? Should the energy produced on-site ultimately pay for the embodied energy impacts of construction, as we suggested in this issue’s introduction? Ultimately, we believe a ZNE building is one that eventually becomes a resource giver, not a perpetual taker.


The EU Parliament recently declared that by December 2018, all new buildings in Europe (with the exception of small homes and sheds) need to produce as much energy on their property as they consume. Seven years. They’re giving themselves just seven years to go 100% green.


That’s way too fast for most of the heavily lobbied industries in the U.S. But we’re crawling—not striding—in the same direction. If you look carefully, you can see how the transition will likely happen here. The International Energy Conservation Code will soon pass a 2012 code that is 30% more stringent than the 2006 version.


 


2011
ECO-LEADERS
BASF
MAKING THINGS BETTER


Creating a tight, thermally-efficient building envelope is critical in a net-zero home, but the trick is doing it in a way that is cost-effective and convenient. BASF has developed a product called Neopor, an expandable polystyrene board that not only requires fewer raw materials to produce than competing rigid foams, but has better performance.


Neopor’s silvery gray color comes from graphite, which BASF integrates into the foam’s cell structure. The graphite reflects and absorbs radiant heat, improving insulating capacity by up to 20%. As a result, Neopor foam board’s R-value achieves about R4.5 per inch.


Neopor panels are lightweight, durable, and eliminate thermal bridging. When used as exterior insulation, they can be clad with textured, acrylic surfacing systems to achieve the look of stucco.


Neopor also is used in insulated concrete forms and structural insulated panels, both increasingly-popular ways to build exterior walls in low-energy homes.


BASF says that producing Neopor also uses half the raw materials of conventional expanded polystyrene. Rather than containing CFCs and other halogenated cell gases, Neopor uses air to preserve its thermal properties in an environmentally-friendly way.


This approach reflects a corporate philosophy at BASF, which is developing a team of construction science advisors who will offer whole-building consultation.


“What a builder can control is the physical structure and its energy-related systems,” said Colby Swanson, BASF’s manager for building and construction markets. “A smartly designed residential enclosure (walls, floors, roof, windows, and doors) is the key factor, after homeowner behavior, for decreasing energy usage in homes.”

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