Build It Green Wins Research Grant to Advance Multifamily Zero Net Energy

Oakland-based nonprofit will solve challenges to constructing apartment buildings that produce as much energy as they consume.


The California Energy Commission (CEC) has awarded Build It Green (BIG) a research grant to overcome key challenges to developing zero net energy (ZNE) multifamily buildings. The goal of the CEC grant is to make ZNE construction technically and economically feasible and to accelerate ZNE’s adoption among multifamily developers.

BIG and its research partners will optimize approaches to designing and constructing multifamily buildings that produce as much energy as they consume—through the use of on-site renewable energy and breakthrough all-electric technologies for water heating and HVAC. Four affordable housing ZNE demonstration projects in Northern California will offer opportunities to investigate these approaches in-depth, and will create comfortable and healthy homes for low-income residents.

“As a green building leader and innovator, Build It Green is thrilled by this opportunity to advance ZNE best practices and show multifamily developers that ZNE is both achievable and cost-effective,” said Karin Burns, Build It Green CEO. “This research project will be critical to helping the state of California meet its goal to make ZNE the standard for all new residential construction by 2020.”

BIG will lead an all-star team of researchers, coordinated by Senior Technical Manager Amy Dryden. Nehemiah Stone of Stone Energy Associates, a leading expert on multifamily energy efficiency, will serve as Principal Investigator. The Association for Energy Affordability, Redwood Energy, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will contribute critical expertise for data collection and analysis. The four all-electric ZNE demonstration projects—in various stages of design and development—are being provided by the Corporation for Better Housing (CBH) and Resources for Community Development (RCD).

Read about the low-income projects >

The research project will demonstrate the potential of innovative heat pump water heating and HVAC technologies as a pathway to ZNE, then go a step further to explore the complex, interdependent systems in a multifamily building to show how they can work together to achieve ZNE in a cost-effective manner.

“California’s ZNE goal is approaching rapidly, yet a host of key ZNE design and building science issues remain poorly understood for multifamily developers,” said Bruce Mast, Build It Green’s Chief Innovation Officer. “Our research will help establish design and installation best practices that minimize risks for developers and accelerate the market toward ZNE. We need to ensure that all the potential benefits of ZNE are fully realized, especially persistent cost-savings and greenhouse gas reductions.”

See the technical details and project goals >


About Build It Green
Build It Green is a nonprofit with a mission to help professionals adopt green practices and grow the market for efficient, healthy homes. Our pioneering work is transforming how homes are built and renovated in California and beyond. Learn more at