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Pathways to Zero

We are catalyzing the market for superefficient and net-zero buildings and districts that vault NZE from niche to mainstream—demonstrating how going zero can save energy and money, reduce environmental impact, increase resilience, and better improve occupant health, comfort, and productivity.

What Is Pathways to Zero?

We are driving early movers in the buildings industry on a path to—or beyond—net zero energy by working with individual buildings, districts, cities, and portfolios to significantly reduce energy use, and powering them with renewable energy sources cost-effectively while also supporting dynamic grid interface. We’re doing this by helping owners “lead by example,” with pioneering demonstration projects that show net zero can be achieved profitably and uncover new sources of value, while also publishing key insights that were learned through these projects so others are inspired and activated to follow suit.

Why It Matters

If we are going to make meaningful progress toward global climate targets, we need to fix our buildings. They are the largest end-users of energy, and given the average 30-year lifespan, can be part of the problem or our climate solution for years to come. While demand for NZE buildings has grown 700 percent between 2012 and 2016, NZE buildings still represent a mere fraction of our building stock. Plus, many of these projects are new construction, not retrofits. We need to bridge the gap today between the promise that NZE holds for commercial buildings and districts, and actual market adoption.

Who’s Involved

We’re working with leading private and government sector partners where we see the greatest opportunity to increase the speed and scale of net-zero energy buildings and districts. We work with large portfolio owners and managers, district-scale developers, and leading federal agencies.

What We’re Doing

Federal Deep Energy Retrofits

We’re working with leading federal agencies to improve retrofit delivery models, delivering deeper energy and cost savings and increased resilience.

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Net-Zero Carbon Buildings, Districts, and Portfolios

We’re overcoming design and business-model barriers to NZE in individual buildings and districts through leading-edge demonstration projects and industry convenings.

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NZE Leasing

We’re pioneering new engagement models and lease structures to make NZE profitable for both landlord and tenants alike.

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Grid-Integrated, Energy-Efficient Buildings (GEBs)

We’re designing the integration of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy storage, enabled by smart controls and microgrids that provide profit to building owners while supporting a clean energy system.

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Zero-Carbon Policies

We’re advising cities, regions, and states to institute innovative policies and codes encouraging the building sector to implement carbon-free solutions.

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What We’ve Accomplished

  • With support from the Heinz Endowments, we showed how much whole-systems design can achieve at scale with a 180-acre net-zero energy district. The development saves money for developers, owners, and tenants and reduces overall energy by 451 billion Btu, saving more than 60,000 tons of carbon per year compared with BAU.
  • RMI’s two NZE Colorado offices have pushed design and contractual barriers for NZE, providing replicable and profitable models for owner and tenant-occupied office buildings.
  • We continue to partner with leading Federal Agencies including the GSA—the nation’s biggest landlord—to drive toward ambitious NZE goals and more than double its energy savings in deep retrofit projects.
  • The Getting to Zero National Forum, co-hosted with New Buildings Institute, continues to draw hundreds of leaders in the NZE industry and beyond to push collaborative solutions to scale NZE.

Our Partners

General Services Administration

Contract holder schedule #GS-21F-0130Y

Department of Energy

Contractor

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Partner

The Heinz Endowments

Partner

New Buildings Institute

Partner

Architecture 2030

Partner

John Madden Company

Partner

U.S. Navy

Partner

Our Team

James Mandel
Managing Director
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Victor Olgyay
Principal
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Cara Carmichael
Principal
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Matt Jungclaus
Manager
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Alisa Petersen
Sr. Associate
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Amy Egerter
Sr. Associate
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Seth Coan
Manager
Sr. Associate
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Sheldon Mendonca
Sr. Associate
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Rebecca Cole

Resources

Guide

Best Practices for Achieving Zero Over Time for Building Portfolios, 2018

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Guide

Best Practices for Leasing Net-Zero Energy Buildings, 2018

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Case Study

Boulder Commons: Replicable NZE Solutions for Multitenant Buildings, 2018

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Insight Brief

An Integrative Business Model for Net-Zero Districts, 2016

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Report

Mapping a Pathway to Low-Carbon Campuses, 2017

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News

Efficient Buildings to Combat Climate Change, Colorado Public Radio

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Report

How to Calculate and Present Deep Retrofit Value: A Guide for Investors, 2015

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Practice Guide

Deep Energy Retrofit Request for Proposal Guidelines, co-authored with AIA and Boma, 2015

Report

How to Calculate and Present Deep Retrofit Value: A Guide for Owners-Occupants, 2014

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Abstract

Analyzing Energy-Efficiency Opportunities Across Building Portfolios, ACEEE, 2014

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Report

Deep Energy Retrofits Using Energy Savings Performance Contracts, 2015

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Report

The Path to a Deep Energy Retrofit Using an Energy Savings Performance Contract, 2015

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