Architecture 2030 has introduced  the first national and international ZERO Code for new commercial, institutional, and mid- to high-rise residential buildings.

ZERO Code for new building construction integrates cost-effective energy efficiency standards with on-site and/or off-site renewable energy resulting in zero net carbon (ZNC) buildings.


Why the Zero Code?

The world is currently undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in human history. More than half of the global population is now concentrated in urban areas, and we are adding about 1.5 million people to cities each week – a rate that is not expected to slow down any time in  the foreseeable future. By 2060, two-thirds of the expected population of 10 billion people will live in cities. These new city dwellers will need housing and services, everything from schools, offices, and health facilities to airports and train stations.

Reflect for a minute on the following United Nations projection:

“By 2060, the world is projected to add 230 billion square meters (2.5 trillion square feet) of buildings, or an area equal to the entire current global building stock*. This is the equivalent of adding an entire New York City to the planet every 34 days for the next 40 years.”

*UN Environment, Global Status Report 2017

In order to achieve the target set by the Paris Agreement ­– limit the rise in global average temperature to below the 2°C threshold – all new construction must be designed to high energy efficiency standards and use no CO2-emitting fossil fuel energy to operate; by 2050 the entire built environment must be carbon neutral.


Time is of the Essence

While there have been worldwide improvements in building sector energy efficiency, as well as growth in renewable energy generating capacity, these have not been nearly enough to offset the increase in emissions from new construction. As a result, building sector CO2 emissions have continued to rise by nearly 1% per year since 2010.

We now have a critical window of opportunity, as well as the necessary tools needed to address this massive amount of new construction before its operating emissions are locked in for decades to come.

The ZERO Code, which can be adopted immediately, results in zero net carbon  buildings. It accomplishes this by incorporating current and cost-effective energy efficiency standards with on-site and/or off-site renewable energy provisions.

Only by eliminating CO2 emissions from new building operations will renewable energy additions, and existing building stock energy efficiency upgrades, begin to reduce building sector emissions overall. To meet Paris Agreement targets, action is needed today to implement the ZERO Code worldwide.


Building Energy Efficiency

The ZERO Code includes prescriptive and performance paths for building energy efficiency compliance (based on current standards that are widely used by municipalities and building professionals worldwide) and is supported by compliance tools and simulation software.

While the ZERO Code incorporates the latest ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2016 requirements for minimum building efficiency, other existing or new prescriptive and performance standards can also be accommodated, such as the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), ASHRAE Standard 189.1-2017, or any building energy efficiency standards that are more stringent than ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2016.


Renewable Energy

The ZERO Code offers code adaptable language and a flexible approach for incorporating renewable energy, both through on-site generation and/or off-site procurement. By establishing a flexible approach, the ZERO Code is applicable to all new commercial and institutional buildings, and mid- to high-rise housing, including buildings with limited on-site renewable energy generating capacity, for example buildings in dense urban environments.


ZERO Code Software

The ZERO Code is supported by software that eases the implementation process and reduces errors when applying the prescriptive compliance path. An API for the software is available, enabling the software to be implemented as a website or an application for smartphones and tablets. Ultimately, this approach will save years and valuable resources that would otherwise be spent on developing new compliance tools and mechanisms.


Adoption of the ZERO Code

The ZERO Code can be incentivized or required by adopting jurisdictions. To access the ZERO Code website, including API documentation and the simulation interface, and to download the ZERO Code and Technical Support Document for the off-site procurement of renewable energy, visit The ZERO Code is essential in advancing CO2 emissions reductions worldwide. The time to act is now.


More to Come

The California ZERO Code, supported by the California Governor’s Office and California Energy Commission, is in development and will be presented at the Climate Action Summit being held in San Francisco, September 12-14, 2018. The creation of a ZERO Code industry standard is also being discussed with colleagues and professional organizations in China.


Architecture 2030 is a nonprofit organization that aims to rapidly transform the built environment from the major contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a central part of the solution to the climate and energy crisis.