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Request for Participation for Field Validation of Zero Energy and Zero Energy Ready Buildings

NREL is issuing a request for participation to identify building technologies and solutions that contribute to achieving zero energy and zero energy ready (ZE/R) status.

Request for Participation

NREL seeks to leverage the expertise of the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratories to conduct in-depth analyses on field data related to the energy performance, costs, and human impact of innovative ZE/R technologies and solutions. These analyses will inform best practices for long-term operation and maintenance of ZE/R buildings and determine pathways for widespread adoption of the ZE/R technologies and solutions.

This request for participation will remain open until 11:59 p.m. EST on March 13, 2020.

Participant Qualifications

This request is open to building owners, facility managers, and designers to submit candidate commercial ZE/R buildings for evaluation.

Candidate Building Qualifications

A ZE/R building is a building that has an energy consumption so low on-site renewable energy could offset the total energy consumption of the building. Note: The term zero energy is also referred to as zero net energy, net zero energy, and net positive.

The key to achieving a ZE/R building is a very low energy use intensity (EUI). Many ZE/R buildings have an annual EUI between 10 and 30 kBtu/ft2. While some building sectors may require a higher EUI, a common thread is energy savings exceeding 40% from ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2016. These resources provide more information.

Participants are encouraged to submit candidate buildings that:

  • Have achieved or are close to achieving ZE/R energy performance, with at least one year of recorded energy data
  • Include an engaged facility manager
  • Have access to submetered energy data or the ability to instrument and collect energy data
  • Feature innovative technologies or strategies that:
    • Have significantly contributed to the building's ZE/R performance
    • Have not had in-depth data analysis
    • Possess high potential for widespread adoption by other buildings
    • Feature the potential to synergistically integrate with other technologies, strategies, or building end-uses.

ZE/R buildings provide an integrated approach for energy efficiency and renewable energy to achieve extremely low energy use targets. When operating in an optimized manner, ZE/R buildings can reduce energy consumption and demand, increase resilience, and improve the opportunity for load flexibility.

This request for participation seeks to explore innovative ZE/R technologies and solutions where there is either limited data or limited analysis on performance. It is anticipated that national laboratories' expertise will be available, as funding permits, to conduct in-depth analyses on selected ZE/R measures. As outcomes, building owners and/or facility managers will:

  • Better understand current operation of installed ZE/R measures
  • Identify operational improvements to enhance energy performance and increase the potential for load flexibility
  • Learn best practices for energy data analysis to ensure continuous high-efficiency performance.

In addition, the national laboratories may:

  • Identify the value proposition to building owners for investing in ZE/R technologies and solutions
  • Determine weaknesses where future research is needed to address limitations in design, technologies, or operations
  • Describe pathways for widespread adoption and successful performance at scale.

Example Technologies and Solutions

For respondents' reference, the below list of ZE/R measures is intended to offer examples of appropriate technologies and solutions in this space. It is of particular interest to focus on the integration and impact that a technology has on other systems to achieve superior whole building performance.

Respondents to this request for participation should not feel restricted by this list of measures, nor should they feel obligated to respond in all categories.

Examples of sought-after technologies and solutions include:

  • Innovative building envelope strategies
  • Advanced HVAC technologies and controls
  • Advanced technologies and controls for lighting and plug loads
  • Integrated controls for various building end-use systems.

Examples of technologies that facilitate the potential for greater system integration include combinations of end-use systems, technologies, or other solutions, such as:

  • Decreased cooling capacity (ft2/ton) based on improvements to other subsystems or components, such as lighting, plug loads, and/or building envelope
    • For example, some ZE/R buildings have reported the cooling capacity number over 1,000 ft2/ton
  • Improved envelope performance yielding a smaller, more innovative (such as chilled beams or sewer heat recovery), or more efficient mechanical system type
  • Reduced mechanical and electric lighting loads as a result of daylighting and passive solar design
  • Integration of energy storage (battery or thermal) to downsize electrical, mechanical, or HVAC distribution, improve system performance, and enable capabilities to shed and shift loads
  • Increased electrical distribution efficiencies (such as DC power distribution systems)
  • Alternative air cleaning systems to reduce ventilation and mechanical system energy
  • Simplified building operations and reduced maintenance as a result of passive design strategies, highly modular systems, and/or easy-to-use control systems.

How To Submit a Response

Parties wishing to be considered for this request for participation should complete this web-based form.

Note: Only submissions from respondents who fully complete the web-based form will be reviewed.

Information Webinar

Representatives from NREL hosted a web-based information session to discuss the request for participation and provide more detail on information requests.

Text version


Additional information may be requested by the national laboratories' representatives during the planning and selection process. Questions should be directed to

Additional Resources

For more information, visit the following resources:'s Commercial Buildings Resource Database

Net-Zero Energy Buildings: A Classification System Based on Renewable Energy Supply Options, NREL Technical Report (2010)'s Buildings Resource Hub's Getting to Zero Buildings Database's Advanced Energy Design Guides