Zero Energy Buildings to Become Big Business in Future

Navigant Research predicts the market’s annual global revenue will skyrocket to $1.4 trillion in 2035.

Navigant Research has released a new study, “Zero Energy Buildings,” which concludes that these high-performance properties will be big business in the future, with the ZEB market’s annual global revenue skyrocketing from an estimated $639 million in 2014 to $1.4 trillion in 2035.

It won’t be a smooth road. There will be challenges as the existence of ZEBs goes on the rise, the name being one of them. These properties are known as zero energy buildings or net zero energy buildings or, as they’ve donned them in the European Union, nearly zero energy buildings.

And then there’s the issue of the actual definition of a ZEB. “What is remarkable about the ZEB markets is that even though they are forecast to grow considerably in the EU and parts of the U.S., the companies that will play in their respective markets don’t all appear to be ready.  The confusion about defining a ZEB is preventing corporations from taking a position,” Noah Goldstein, research director for smart buildings at Navigant, told Commercial Property Executive. “Every EU member state, for example, defines ‘nearly zero energy’ in a different way, making it challenging for vendors to serve multiple countries.”

Regardless, the jump in ZEBs will be a big one, and it is legislation that will be the main driving force behind the increase. Laws such as the European Union’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the State of California’s Title 24 building energy standards serve as examples of the regulations that will spur the growth of ZEB solutions in new and existing commercial and residential buildings.

However, the surge in ZEBs will be spurred by more than legislation. Increasingly positive societal views on sustainability will play a role as well, albeit a far less powerful one. A commercial building owner, building tenant or homeowner’s desire for a low-carbon footprint property–for appearance’s sake, respect for the environment or cost savings–will also enhance the existence of ZEBs. In the U.S. specifically, regulations and decreasing related technology prices will incite the ZEB trend.

In the U.S. and beyond, with the growing number of ZEBs will come the rise in the global market for related products and services, including lighting, walls and roof, glazing, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Additionally, per the report, helping things along will be the increasing focus on the building envelope–the system of materials that separates the indoor interior environment from the exterior environment–as associated technology and equipment improve.

Regardless, the number of ZEBs is set to go on a major upswing over the next couple of decades, and the signs are already there. “We are now in a period of showcases or demonstrations, from a technology standpoint,” Goldstein added. “The next few years will likely see a rise in the number of pilot projects that will present economically feasible ZEBs.”