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What is Net Zero Energy Building design?

What is Net Zero Energy Building design?

Prepared by Architect Perumal Nagapushnam
System Design Architect

The Malaysian  Cultural City , Bentong in Malaysia  is the first of its kind in the world for Net Zero Energy Resort pioneering  in Net Zero Energy Building design for large scale projects. The challenges to achieve (NZEB) designs are real, as Resorts are energy guzzlers and achieving Zero Energy is difficult endeavor. This resort will be used a one stop destination for tourist all over the world. It is estimated that about 3000 tourist will visit the Cultural City per day. The Malaysian Cultural City shall been slated as an Iconic tourist destination as it show cases to the world the cultural diversity, that has successfully  prevailed  in Malaysia among 3 majors racial enclaves. The resort has a 680beded Hotel,33 chalets and a traditional Indian Village, traditional Chinese Village and a traditional Malay Village (kampung)which shall show case the diversity of Malaysian cultures.
Among other reasons for the project to be slated as a top Iconic tourist destination site due to  the Net Zero Energy Building design and  Hyper Green considerations.

Net Zero Energy Resort

Bentong Cultural Village, Malaysia designed as Net Zero Energy Village with a 680 bed room Hotels, chalets &Indian Villages













What are NZEB,Net Zero Energy Building designs?

Net Zero Energy Building design also called Net Zero Carbon building is an attempt to reduce the electrical bill to zero cost every year.  In this article we attempt to describe what constitutes a Net Zero Energy Building designs. There are about 4 definitions of Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB): by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA.

  1. Net Zero Source Energy Building-A building that purchases or produces as much energy for a year by accounting the energy produced at the source
  2. Net Zero Energy Cost Building-The electric bill is covered every year by virtue of design, and production of energy at the site.
  3. Net Zero Energy Emission Building-The Carbon neutrality is achieved by optimizing the energy consumption and neutrality is obtained by offsetting using renewable energy.
  4. Net Zero Site Energy Building-A building site that produces at least as much renewable energy as it uses the energy, over the course of a year.

When we speak of (Net Zero Energy Building design), there is a general misconception that solar panels are used to produce all the energy required or others preconceive that there is a major reduction on the consumption of energy. In fact this misnomer, to depend entirely on Photo voltaic panels entirely, is not true as the cost of photo voltaic panels are so cost exorbitant that the cost of Photo voltaic may cost more than the building cost. And neither is the amount of consumption reduced. The above definitions by NREL, clearly speaks defies these misnomers as flawed.

There are much fears that Net Zero Energy is exclusively for small buildings and System Design Architect ( see ) is committed to pioneer this latest technology in the frontiers of Energy Efficient buildings. The need to save energy is an application of a want to improve the reduction of energy. The world that is groping, floundering and flirting with the Green movement as a way to save the world without substantial scientific basis, Net Zero Energy movement has a direct saving impact to the environment by reducing energy, carbon emission etc. The Green movement reduces a nominal energy consumption but in NZEB, the energy savings are drastically reduced by 100%.

How does  Net Zero Energy Building design (NZEB) works

3R Doctrine .The methodology to produce Net Zero Energy Building design, is basically strategies centered around the 3R doctrine ie reduce, reuse and recycle. The wastage is systematically reduced either passively or actively .Recycling of energy is done by placing equipment such as recycling wheel where energy is reused and not wasted. In nature there is no wastage and we should learn from the Bio-metrics of nature. In nature wastage from one is a food source to another in the ecological food chain, unlike the case with human beings. Much of our energy is rather wasted and we are flaunting our resources away.

Soft-wares. We employ the latest computer energy simulations, in System Design Architect , using the software we will be able to identify the sources of energy consuming elements and eliminate it at the preliminary stages. Using a shoe box model with soft-wares as Ecotect, Vasari, Design studio, Therm and other personally developed software that instantly reveals the weakness of areas where energy guzzling is identified and eliminated. Each of these soft wares will serve a purpose and I will discuss them in detail in the forthcoming article.

Passive Design. By using passive design consideration techniques, the total heat gain (tropical heat /summer) or loss (winters) heat gain or loss reduced. The orientation of the building will realize heat savings by 15%. Other passive strategies are such as window shading, type of glass to be used in curtain walls, shading of building from the sun using smart landscaping will improve the energy savings tremendously. This includes insulation of the buildings where heat is gain into the building for summers or heat loss, in summers, are reduced. Using soft-ware that calculates the material to be used for insulation, whereby we minimize the loss of energy via conduction, convention, and radiation. This will be systematically be analyzed and energy saved. Please read more about Net Zero Energy Building design in the System Design’s  Website at

Active Design. This is where the high performance mechanical system is used to reduce the power usages. Equipment certified star rated as energy savings, are  to be selected based on actual performances and guarantees and not by virtues of these certifications. There is much fraudulent certification that has been exposed even in the US.

There are numerous other strategies such as LED, high performances air conditioning units, refrigerant types, heat recycle wheels and reduction of the electrical cyclical spikes. This will be dealt with in details in the future articles  as article on its own.

BAS, Building Automation System, There are much need for BAS systems to be designed in Buildings, as they reduce the consumption of energy and wastage. This is especially so in large projects where equipment such as air con  chillers, lift controls, lighting fitting sensors, motion sensors in escalators and light fittings cannot be monitored manually.

active designs

active designs

Renewable Energy. Each site has its prevailing characteristic for generating renewable energy, such as wind , solar, geo thermal and mini hydro. The type of renewable energy used to generate energy will depend on the availability of energy at the site.

renewable energy

wind turbine

Photo voltaic has it advantages of cost but in the tropics, the no of hours of cloud free hours per day, may not make photo voltaic as viable option. The viability of a wind turbine is not determined by no of hours there are sufficient wind to generate power, but the availability is day and night. Whereas, mini turbines and geo thermal systems may be produce energy for the whole day continuously and are not affected by the availability of the sun or wind. Each of the sources has their own weakness and strengths. The site is analyses for which option is the best option.

Why design for Net Zero Energy Building design?

There is much weakness in the present Green movement certified by Green bodies( Marks -Singapore, Leeds-US, GBI Malaysia) results in costlier building cost where the end users do not see the benefits of the Green buildings. For instance tenants of office space may not see the need to pay additional rentals, typically charged in Green Buildings. The tangible benefits are not realized by the tenants.Net Zero Energy is a Gold standard for Green and Sustainable movement.However, in NZEB, the tenants enjoy free electric bill and the Land Lords enjoy lower maintenance cost.

The Landlord may even generate revenue if he is able to surplus supply energy to the Grid and receive financial returns.

The benefits are marginal and more of a social contribution to the environment a response to the call to save the environment which case has not been scientifically founded. Read for 8 reasons for why to go for Green and sustainability and the weakness in the present Green movement.

In NZEB, places such as Bali, Indonesia the live-hood of people has been disconnected with the Government public utility. In situations of a disaster, their resilience is greater in the event of a disastrous tragedy, as they are self-reliant and independent of on external environment. And their ability to survive a disaster is greater. Unlike in the case of 2011,Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, that hit the national grid brought the country’s economic to its knees. The economy was dependent on the national grid and the economy was brought o a halt because of power shortage. If Japan’s Buildings  were Net Zero Energy Building design unlike Bali, their ability to recover would have been easier. In fact, places remote from the disaster could have had power and resume a normal lifer.

In fact, my call in this article is for building to have Net Zero Energy Building design, NZEB to be self-reliant and be organically dependent on nature and not dependent on the public utility companies. I underscore the need to tend towards organic architecture as being self-reliant and independence from the utility companies, generating power, water supply, water disposal, waste disposal (domestic and sewerage and industrial) and communication and living with nature within the site.

Net Zero Energy Building design is to the path to quick recovery and reconciliation and resilience from calamities that threatens to strike our nations to desolation and destitution.

waterfall H25

Green and Sustainable House Floor Plan

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Carbon Trading

Green architect

Prepared by Architect Perumal 
System Design Architect


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