Navigating the Zero Energy and Carbon Landscape – Greenbuild 2020 Session Review


Editorial, “With all this talk about zero-carbon and its comprehensive effect on everything about building conception, construction, operation, maintenance and deconstruction; we wondered about what this is going to look like when we apply the same science to housewares, consumables, food, transportation and clothing. Inexpensive appliances from China will be frowned upon. Understanding the amount of micro plastics in paper towels will discourage their use. Shipping food around the world won’t be acceptable. Automobile companies will be required to recycle their vehicles. Fast fashion will carry a sigma like furs have experienced. To a designer, these changes require individuals to appreciate the origin and environmental effects of their products. Forever appliances that never die and can always be repaired will come back. Multi-ply, scented and micro plastic bead toilet paper will revert to the type that can be accepted by leach fields. Food from other countries will have labels that inform you on their carbon footprint. Damaging environmental effect labels will be on every product like the warnings on alcohol and tobacco products.”

Building construction and operations accounted for 36% of global final energy use, and nearly 40% of energy‐related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017. The buildings industry has a tremendous responsibility – and unique opportunity – to play a leading role in reducing carbon emissions by increasing the number of net zero buildings, advancing renewable energy generation and procurement, and supporting the electrical grid transition to a clean energy economy.

As global carbon emissions continue to rise, the stakes have never been higher to prioritize emissions reductions in the design and operations of buildings. Electrifying buildings is critical to achieve this goal, but the relationships between building electrification, renewable energy procurement and decarbonization are not always straightforward.

Through the lens of project case studies, this session will explore different approaches and contexts for achieving net zero energy and net zero carbon. Presenters will examine the relationship between building electrification and decarbonization, present best practices for new construction and existing buildings, and discuss the carbon emissions reductions potential of various forms of renewable energy procurement.  Speakers will illustrate how the LEED rating system and LEED Zero certification provide a framework for teams to deliver high-performing projects that achieve zero carbon and zero energy goals.

Attendees will better understand how strategies for building decarbonization can vary depending on project type, location, grid service connection and market incentives, identify the value of voluntary green building certifications in this context, and prepare to pursue net zero on future building projects.


Identify key considerations and metrics that designers must address to minimize operational energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions in buildings.

Describe how integration of distributed energy resources at the individual building level can deliver greenhouse gas emissions reductions and support grid-scale decarbonization.

Discuss strategies for assessing how investment in off-site renewable energy by individual building projects or portfolios translates into greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Define how synergistic requirements in the LEED v4.1 BD+C rating system and LEED Zero program provide a framework for teams to deliver high-performing projects that achieve zero carbon and zero energy goals.



LEED Specific: BD+C

Senior Vice President
Josh is a Senior Vice President with WSP and leads the Built Ecology practice. Josh works on a range of horizontal and vertical sustainable buildings and infrastructure projects, including those pursuing high level sustainability goals such as Net Zero Energy, WELL and LEED certification, etc. Josh was a co-founder of the sustainability group YR&G, was a co-founder of the advocacy group GreenHomeNYC, was co-chair of the ULI Colorado Healthy Places Committee, and is a LEED Fellow. He holds Masters’ degrees in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and Columbia University in New York, and now teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder
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Emma Hughes
Project Manager, LEED
U.S. Green Building Council
Emma Hughes, LEED AP BD+C and TRUE Advisor, is a Project Manager in the LEED Department at the U.S. Green Building Council and a proponent of integrated, holistic approaches to sustainable design and development. At USGBC, she collaborates with industry stakeholders and networks of diverse volunteer experts, including those serving on LEED technical committees, to evolve and refine the LEED green building rating system. Emma supports the technical development and maintenance of the LEED Zero program and serves as staff liaison for the LEED Steering Committee, Water Efficiency Technical Advisory Group, and Energy and Atmosphere Technical Advisory Group. She earned her B.S. in International Relations from Boston University.
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