Some countries specifically define levels of energy efficiency. For example, in Australia, a net zero building must be approximately 20% to 30% more energy efficient than a standard building, at which point you can start layering on renewables. Australia is also willing to accept carbon offsets, such as investments into carbon sinks, so that can also count to make a building net zero in that country. Others countries are saying that they will offsets but within limits. In the Netherlands, for example, renewable sources of energy count so long as they’re located within 10 kilometers of a building. Investing in a solar farm located on the other side of the country, on the other hand, doesn’t count toward becoming a net zero building.
Today, we’re really focused on operating emissions. Over time, we’d also like to take into account emissions generated during the construction of buildings. Some countries are already starting to look at this aspect, but it’s much more difficult, and it’s going to take some time to get there.
GBCs often work very closely with national governments and companies. For example, in Australia and Canada, the local GBCs are in very close dialogue with the national governments and companies to understand what’s going to work from regulatory perspective, feasibility, and cost perspectives. Many GBCs are developing an initial definition, then piloting the definitions and related certifications in a number of projects in their country. These pilot projects test and refine the definitions and the assessment processes as they roll out net zero certifications. This is how the original green building certifications were developed, and some of the net zero certification and definitions are also being developed in this way.