Zero Energy Terms for Realtors & Homebuyers

The feasibility of any decision depends on how much research you put in. If you are thinking about buying or selling a zero energy home, there are few terms you need to be well acquainted with:


This refers to a variety of framing techniques that are specifically designed to minimize waste generation and lumber usage in the construction of a wooden house. This construction method is also known as Optimum Value Engineering with reduced material and labor costs achieving energy efficiency.

Building Envelope

A building envelope is a six-sided box separating the exterior and interior environment of a building. It mostly consists of walls, roofs, floors, ceiling, doors, and fenestrations, which are any opening in the structure such as windows, skylights, and clerestories. The main aim is to keep the box as insulated and airtight as possible.


Carbon footprint is a calculation of the amount of emission of greenhouse gases that are produced as a result of commercial and individual activities. It measures the environmental impact in units of carbon dioxide and consists of two parts, primary and secondary. The primary footprint is the summation of direct carbon dioxide emissions due to the burning of fossil fuels. The secondary footprint is the sum of indirect emissions associated with the breakdown and manufacture of all products, services and food consumption of a business or individual.


These are zero energy homes that are certified by third party certifiers including Living Building Challenge, Earth Advantage or independent energy analysts. It verifies that buildings are operating as claimed and there are other requirements from the Living Building Challenge that need to be met. It is based on on-site inspections, energy use monitoring, and energy modeling.


An energy audit is the inspection of a building to determine the energy usage of a building or home and finding out ways of reducing it. A qualified inspector measures the dimensions of the building which include floors, windows, ceilings, walls and the amount, and type of insulation recorded. A visual assessment is then conducted and measurements are taken such as blower door tests complying with the standards of the industry. The analysis is done without negatively affecting the outputs. In industrial and commercial real estate, an energy audit is the first step in identifying opportunities to minimize carbon footprints and energy expenses. A written report is then prepared with detailed cost and saving analysis along with recommendations.


A ground course heat pump uses the temperature of the earth to provide heating and cooling to a home. It’s a central system that takes advantage of moderate temperature on the ground to reduce the operational costs of heating and cooling and boost efficiency at the same time. A piping loop is buried in the ground and fluid circulates through it to a pump compressor. As the earth’s temperature is relatively stable, the efficiency of the heat pump is almost 400%.


This refers to the overall measurement of the cleanliness of air within a home or building. There are many contaminants in the air such as mold, lead, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and so on. IAQ related to the comfort and health of the building occupants, and a basic understanding of the pollutants can reduce indoor health concerns and other risks.


The living building challenge (LBC) is a certification program that defines an advanced form of sustainability that has been defined by The International Living Future Institute. There are standardized rules for the construction of buildings to ensure they operate in a clean, beautiful and efficient manner. The LBC provides a framework for construction, design and the symbiotic relationship between the aspects of environment and the people.

In order to come under the Challenge, there are some requirements that need to be met such as zero off-site water use and zero net energy.


They save energy by letting the occupants set temperatures depending on whether the house is occupied giving home owners the feasibility to change the temperature at different parts of the day. They usually have a digital interface to allow more accurate and precise control of the temperature with a wide range of features and options to save energy.


Sealed Ducting is an energy saving technique that avoids moisture damage by air and improves the indoor air quality. It’s a sealant applied with a brush or gloved hand for sealing new ducts or fix the existing improperly installed ones.