Zero Energy Buildings

Through the years the Southwest has been a leader in energy efficiency innovation for buildings. This evolution of knowledge has resulted in the construction of Zero Energy Buildings (ZEB) many people are enjoying today.

Increasing the energy efficiency of new buildings offers a cost-effective way to help occupants save money and lower their energy use, while reducing the energy and environmental impacts of new and retrofitted buildings. ZEB, which are designed to produce as much energy as they consume, can currently be built cost-effectively while achieving energy savings of 50% to 90% through energy efficiency measures, and up to 100%+ savings by incorporating on-site renewable energy systems, such as solar PV and solar thermal systems. ZEB can also reduce or nearly eliminate peak electricity demand (which is growing rapidly in many Southwest states) and reduce air pollution all while owners and residents enjoy comfortable buildings with a very low energy bills.

To accelerate the growth of ZEB construction, SWEEP conducted a series of five workshop trainings in Arizona, Colorado and Utah to educate and encourage builders, community leaders, raters and industry professionals to build ZEB buildings. Select this link for presentations, slides, technical information, and marketing materials from these workshop trainings.

In an effort to continue advancing ZEB construction we have also developed a list of Zero Energy Buildings in the SWEEP Region, Zero Energy Districts (ZED), High Performance (HP), LEED, and Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) buildings within our six SWEEP states (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming). These energy efficient innovative buildings have given their occupants more durable, resilient and less costly structures that are more comfortable and healthier to live work and play in than the standard code building. 

We have compiled this information in the following ways:

  • By SWEEP States, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming
  • Project names in alphabetical order 
  • City and State of the efficient building
  • Certification type ZED, PHIUS, LEED and HP
  • Status of progress toward certification, verified (building built with a minimum of one year of zero net energy use), emerging (building built, but not verified through energy bills), certified through chosen method (PHIUS and LEED), and planning (building is in planning or construction phase)
  • Year built
  • Number of buildings or units
  • Square feet of building
  • The builder or architect

A Zero Net Energy (ZNE) building is a highly energy efficient building (high insulation levels, energy efficient lighting, natural daylighting, efficient heating, cooling, ventilation and delivery systems) which is able to produce enough on-site renewable energy to offset the energy consumed in the building over the course of a year.

Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program is the Department of Energy’s (DOE) next step in energy efficiency above their ENERGY STAR program. Over 14,000 homes in the United States have been registered in the DOE ZERH program since 2008. A ZERH is basically an ENERGY STAR 2012 IECC home, with checklists for improving indoor air quality and water conservation and renewable energy connectivity and installation.

Zero Energy Districts (ZED) is where a group of buildings produces as much on-site renewable energy as they use over a course of a year. ZED’s share infrastructure and resources (such as waste water heat recovery) to capture energy and increase efficiency without adding more renewable energy. “Net zero energy districts offer an incredible opportunity for cities to greatly reduce their energy use and carbon emissions while at the same time revitalizing urban neighborhoods.” Chuck Kutscher, National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Center Director for Buildings and Thermal System.


Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) is the only Passive House building standard which is climate, comfort and performance based requiring on-site QA/QC to be certified. Allowing affordable cost effective building solutions as a way to achieve a zero energy or zero carbon building. The Passive House is a concept for constructing super insulated, ventilated and balanced buildings which use 90% less energy than the typical building and 75% less than newly constructed buildings. 

High Performance (HP) buildings are ENERGY STAR homes and buildings which are energy efficient and have the following eight attributes; safety and security, sustainability, accessibility, functionality, productivity, historic preservation and aesthetics if the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) intergraded approach is used. The WBDG assessed the voluntary standard and rating systems of high performance buildings. These buildings were basically the most efficient and advanced building for their time. 

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects earn points in sustainable design to one of four levels of efficiency, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. LEED projects work for all types of buildings changing how buildings are planned, constructed, maintained and operated. LEED is the most widely used third party verification system for energy efficient or green buildings in the world.

Click here for the ZEB list