Santa Monica, California might soon have some of the world’s most stringent energy-standards requirements for new home construction. As Curbed reports, an environmental measurement approved by the city council would require all new single-family homes to be net-zero, meaning the houses produce at least as much energy from renewable resources as they use each year.
These buildings are both highly efficient and feature renewable energy sources like wind power and solar panels. They’re typically highly insulated, make use of natural ventilation and shading techniques, and sometimes put appliances to work in multiple ways, such as using refrigerator exhaust to heat water.
The ordinance still has to be approved by the California Energy Commission, but the state has long had some of the tightest environmental standards in the country, and new building efficiency standards going into effect in 2017 require that all new construction of homes be net-zero by 2020, and new commercial construction achieve the same efficiency by 2030.
"ZNE [or zero-net energy] construction, considered the gold standard for green buildings, is a major component that will help us reach our ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050,” Santa Monica’s mayor, Tony Vazquez, said in a press statement.
It’s both an environmentally sustainable choice and an economically smart one. As the city’s chief sustainability officer, Dean Kubani, notes, “With the price of utility power continuing to rise, ZNE homeowners will avoid those escalating costs while benefiting from local renewable power for all of their energy needs.”
While no other city has such stringent requirements, California has already made progress on net-zero construction. Sacramento, for instance, has more net-zero buildings than any other place in the country. Though net-zero construction isn't the norm yet, other cities will likely to move toward similar standards in the future.