Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB)

Join us in our efforts to support NZEB in Massachusetts:



UPDATE 3/21/17: (For Businesses and Organizations) Sign the National USGBC's letter to congress to save the ENERGY STAR, WaterSense, and Safer Choice programs from disappearing under the OMB's new budget. (Individuals) Contact your representative if you want to protect energy efficiency programs. 

General Statement

The Chapter’s efforts to advocate for NZEB include collaborating with organizations and companies that support NZEB Legislation, such as the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership, MassSave, and Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and providing educational materials to chapter members, local and state legislators and the public. The chapter also prepares to testify and organize testimony for legislative hearings. Our Advocacy Committee focuses on expanding our network of support around NZEB and is specifically focusing on supporting enhanced Code Legislation and municipal net zero action plans in 2017. 

The chapter is currently working to understand the implications of cities and towns in the Commonwealth developing net zero action plans for their communities. We are working with several municipalities which are interested in incorporating NZEB. The chapter is developing resources, providing education and reaching out to regulatory agencies as necessary. If you're community is interested in NZEB please, let us know.

Click here for Slide Show Presentation on Net Zero


In September 2015, the Department of Energy finally established a formal definition for net-zero. The DOE defines NZEB's as, "a zero energy building produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, thereby reducing the use of non-renewable energy in the building sector." Furthermore, according to the Buildings, Energy Efficiency and Demand-Side Management Implementation Subcommittee, buildings in Massachusetts consume over half of the state's energy and are responsible for 49% of the state’s GHG emissions, with more than 21% coming from direct fuel use. Such high energy use contributes to increased greenhouse gas emissions and negative environmental and social effects. However, with a clear definition and collaborative approach we can rally around our mission and goals to achieve net zero energy buildings.

Primary Legislation

Bill S.1849: An Act transitioning Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable energy (Sponsored by James B. Eldridge and 18 others) This bill aims to "steadily transition the commonwealth to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2050 in order to (1) avoid pollution of our air, water and land, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately eliminate our use of fossil fuels and other polluting and dangerous forms of energy," as well as increase economic development, job creation, energy security, and quality of life in the state. It requires the state to get all of its electricity from renewables by 2035 and for all heating, transportation and other sectors would to be powered by renewable energy by 2050. 

The bill also requires the state to work with the administrative council for the clean energy transition and the clean energy center of excellence to create effective net zero energy building policies (also known as zero net energy building policy) that, among other things, will require all new buildings in Massachusetts to be 100% net zero by 2030 and for all existing buildings to cut emissions by half within the same time. Overall, this bill would strengthen the state's ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change while promoting sustainability throughout the built environment. 

Related Legislation

Bill S. 476: An Act providing funding for clean energy and energy efficiency measures for the Commonwealth (Sponsored by Senator Marc R. Pacheco and 7 others) This bill will create a clean energy and energy efficieny program for public school buildings in MA.

Bill S.1844: An Act relative to energy efficiency funds generated by municipal lighting plants (Sponsored by Senator James B. Eldridge and 3 others) Municipal lighting plants will recieve funding for energy efficiency programs uding funds from the RGGI cap and trade pollution control program.

Bill S.1881: An Act relative to energy efficiency improvements (Sponsored by Senator Michael J. Rodrigues and 5 others) Creates a residential sustainable energy program to provide financing to residential property owners for energy efficient and renewable energy improvements under the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency and Department of Energy Resources.

Bill H.1763: An Act creating a green bank to promote clean energy in Massachusetts (Sponsored by Representative Paul W. Mark and 22 others) This bill establishes a MA green energy development bank. The bank will evaluate and coordinate financing for energy improvements and energy technologies throughout the commonwealth, offer loans, and help transition the state to a clean energy economy while encouraging job growth and reducing fossil fuel use.

Bill S.1698: An Act promoting the use of total energy impact analysis (Senator James B. Eldridge) This bill would amend the MA General Law to require new construction or major renovation projects of state buildings to measure the energy implications of all resources used. This bill would require a total life cycle energy analysis of such buildings, including electricity, water, transportation, materials, heating and waste, in addition to the life cycle cost analysis. This bill is currently in the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. 

Bill S.1876: An Act relative to enhancing RPS standards - (Sponsored by Senator Marc R. Pacheco and 25 others) This bill accelerates deployment of regional renewable energy by increasing the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), the required increase of green energy in the electric grid, from 1% per year to 2% per year for all electricity retail suppliers. 

Bill S.1834: An Act for community empowerment - (Sponsored by Senator Julian Cyr and 22 others) This will allow municipalities to enter into a community empowerment contract with a company to construct a renewable energy project. 


Financing: This extra step to net zero signifies a transformation toward a more sustainable and green market in the built community, but potentially a costly one. However, financing options for NZEB are expanding at the State level, providing programs such as The Pathways to Zero Net Energy Program. This $3.5 million initiative by DOER is designed to facilitate a transition to the next generation of high-performance buildings in Massachusetts. Projects are utilizing energy best practices such as proper building orientations, well-insulated and air-tight building envelopes, solar thermal, and heat pumps.

An additional financing option for building and property owners interested in improving their energy efficiency and/or starting a renewable energy project is the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, which is another USGBC MA Chapter local priority that we are glad to say was signed into law in July 2016 and will be available soon.

LEED: USGBC promotes the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for the planning of design, construction, operation, and maintenance in green buildings. Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) go one step further, striving for 100% renewable energy generation for the building’s total energy consumption. The MA state energy code is expected to decrease building energy use over time to a level that will allow a feasible next step to NZEB. However, thus energy reduction timeline does not coordinate with the 2030 net zero targets proposed in by the 2030 challenge supported by the chapter.

Net Metering: Statewide net metering caps on renewable energy and distributed generation also pose a problem for developers and investors to commit to NZEB projects. Net metering is another USGBC MA Priority, and we support the current net metering legislation which works to address the limitations caused by the current caps, particularly on solar. The USGBC MA Board has endorsed the Net Generation Solar Policy Framework for Massachusetts (NGSPFM), which aims “to preserve the best elements of the Commonwealth’s nation-leading solar energy programs.”


  • Find your Representative here: Contact your representative and ask them to support sustainable building legislation!
  • Curious about who supports emission reductions? Do a majority of Americans believe in climate change? (YES!) 
    • Check out Yales 2016 Climate Opinion Maps
      • 70% of Americans believe Global Warming is happening.
      • 58% of Americans believe Global Warming will harm people in the US.
      • 82% of Americans want to fund research into renewable energy sources. 
      • 75% of Americans believe CO2 should be regulated as a pollutant.
      • Check out more!
  • Net Zero and Living Building Challenge Study
  • Implementation Committee: Buildings, Energy Efficiency  and Demand-Side Management
  • Greenbuild 2016 - At the 2016 Greenbuild confrence, the world's largest green building conference, officials discussed California's net zero building goals and achievements. In 2008, California set goals to get all residential buildings to zero net energy by 2020, all commercial buildings and half of the existing buildings to ZNE by 2030. USGBC MA hopes to push Massachusetts' regulations in a similar direction to helpd lead net zero nationally. Sign up for Greenbuild 2017 here!
  • Greenbuild Special Set: F01 - From California Dreamin' to ZNE Reality in the Golden State 

  • Massachusetts Net Zero Energy Building Council (Task Force): The Council’s recommendations are designed to move the Commonwealth toward NZEB construction by 2030 and include the following four categories: 1) Establishment of minimum performance standards based on energy use per sq/ft; 2) Energy use benchmarking of all buildings; 3) Incentives to help address regulatory and financial barriers; and 4) Workforce development and public education initiatives. We are currently waiting on updates on the Council’s 2009 recommendations.
  • MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA): EOEEA oversees both environmental and energy agencies to preserve open space and working landscapes; enforce pollution laws; review the environmental impact of major real estate and infrastructure developments; enhance the state’s role in energy conservation and production, and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation and access at the parks, beaches, and farms that make Massachusetts such a wonderful place to live, work, and play.
  • Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP): NEEP was founded in 1996 as a non-profit whose mission is to serve the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic to accelerate energy efficiency in the building sector through public policy, program strategies and education. Their vision is to embrace energy efficiency as a cornerstone of sustainable energy policy and to help achieve a cleaner environment and a more reliable and affordable energy system.
  • Mass Save: An initiative sponsored by Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities and energy efficiency service providers, works closely to provide a wide range of energy efficiency services to help residents and businesses manage energy use and related costs. 
  • Massachusetts Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is the nation's oldest grassroots environmental organization. Here in Massachusetts, the chapter has a legacy of protecting the environment with successful legislative, advocacy, and educational campaigns.
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE): The mission of ASHRAE is to advance the arts and sciences of heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigerating to serve humanity and promote a sustainable world. ASHRAE is passionate about serving the built environment, creating value, and recognizing the accomplishments of others.

Updates and Blogs

Recommendation by USGBC MA

The USGBC Massachusetts Chapter encourages the development of financial structures allowing for the technical capacity of NZEB design and construction. We anticipate the Department of Energy to further identify the social costs and benefits of a NZEB and track the value for commercial and residential buildings. USGBC-MA strives to educate organizations such as the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) and National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) to overcome any fear factor in planning and executing NZEB in our community. In addition, by involving utility companies, the DOER, BBRS, and municipalities in this process – marketing, education and training, incentives—more companies will be able to understand the value of their investments.

We are currently developing draft letters to be sent to legislators in support of NZEB legislation. Please take a moment to look at the below document and send any comments or suggestions to [email protected]

NZEB Draft Letter to Legislator

To get involved in advocacy efforts, please contact our Advocacy Fellow or NZEB Issue Captain Kate Bubriski


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