The first U.S. net zero electric (or zero-energy) commercial building, the headquarters of Ferreira Construction in Branchburg, NJ, was commemorated late this fall for its leadership in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Ferreira partnered with government and industry to accomplish the goal of building a 42,000-square-foot "smart" building that generates more electricity from a renewable energy source than it consumes. While there are prior examples of zero-energy residences, this is the first commercial building of its kind in the entire United States. The building actually produces excess electricity that is pushed out to the grid to share with other businesses across the state.
Essential to the building's green nature is its renewable energy source - a 223kwh photovoltaic solar energy system that covers virtually the entire roof with solar panels. The building's solar hot water system produces all of the building's hot water needs. The system is so efficient that, during last summer's 100-degree F. heat wave, Ferreira's employees enjoyed indoor temperatures of 72 to 74 degrees while still selling surplus power back to the regional electricity grid each day.
Along with its solar thermal domestic hot water, the building also features full radiant heat, high-efficiency rooftop units, a condensing boiler plant, and integrated Web-based building controls. The building's monitoring system can be viewed by the public on the Web to promote energy conservation and renewable energy by illustrating the real-time operation and energy savings of these integrated systems.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) estimates that the building sector is responsible for 65 percent of total electricity consumption for almost half of all greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States. The Ferreira building's reduction of purchased energy comes at a time when electrical energy rates have risen approximately 10 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.