What is a “Net-Zero Energy” Building?

July 2022


Photo Credit: US Department of Energy

You may have heard the term “net-zero energy” (NZE) building, but what does it mean? Let’s take the metaphor of a bathtub. Imagine a huge bathtub being filled up to the brim with water. If the drain is plugged, it will overflow. However, if the drain is unplugged and water is drained as quickly as it is filling the tub, it never overflows. This is the same in the case of an NZE building. It can balance its needs by producing energy at a rate comparable to its consumption.

The concept may seem ambitious and slightly avant-garde, but NZE buildings are soon to be the status quo. If we are to avert the climate crisis, they need to be. By producing as much energy as we consume, we will be able to reduce fuel use and its associated greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, and reach the District’s carbon neutral by 2050 goal. Buildings and their energy usage account for roughly 70% of the District’s emissions. Single-family homes account for a significant portion of residential building emissions as they require more energy compared to multifamily buildings for specific functions (e.g., space and water heating, refrigeration).

Luckily, the Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), in partnership with the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), has been working on the District’s first volunteer Net-Zero Energy Program. It is designed to help residents navigate the process and achieve the goal of net-zero, and it’s already had success. An example is a retrofit of a 1928 masonry home in Brightwood that turned the building into a fully net-zero home without breaking the homeowner’s bank. It is one of the first single-family home retrofits to meet the standards of the NZE Program. They were able to do this by electrifying the building, constructing an airtight building envelope, and incorporating an energy recovery ventilation system.

All in all, a net-zero energy building is achievable and the Net-Zero Energy Program, DCRA, and DCSEU are here to help. If you have any questions about the program, please contact ashley.delgado@dc.gov and info@dcseu.com. Let’s all do our part to reach global net-zero by 2050!


2022 District Sustainability Award Winners Announced

On July 7, the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) announced this year’s District Sustainability Award winners. These awards not only give us an opportunity to recognize the sustainable leaders in our city, but they help remind us of the creative, passionate people in our neighborhoods and communities that make the District so special. The awards highlight the individuals and organizations giving back in so many ways and putting in the work every single day.

The District Sustainability Award winners are:

To watch a short film highlighting the winners, visit this webpage.


Plastic Free July Campaign Launched

On July 1, DOEE launched the District’s Plastic Free July campaign. Summer parties are in full swing, which often come with the purchase and disposal of single-use disposable plastics such as utensils, plates, serving ware and more. To encourage residents to adopt more sustainable practices, the Plastic Free July social media campaign includes a variety of useful tips and facts on how to make your next party or picnic a zero waste event. The campaign will also include updates and community impacts of the District’s Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009, otherwise known as the “bag law.” Keep an eye out for these tips and facts on the DOEE social media pages such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Mayor Bowser Unveils DC Upward Mobility Action Plan

On June 29, Mayor Bowser launched the DC Upward Mobility Action Plan, a new framework for resident mobility that visualizes how DC residents could take advantage of District housing, financial well-being, and workforce programs to reach their personal and financial goals. The Mobility Action Plan (MAP), led by the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and the Office of Planning (OP), is the result of an interagency effort to better align District programs, policies, and investments to boost residents’ upward economic mobility. Residents and community partners are encouraged to provide feedback on the MAP to DMPED and the OP team via the survey on this webpage.


Ditch the Disposables Grant Program Grantees Announced

DOEE is happy to announce the first group of grantees for the Ditch the Disposables grant program. DOEE’s Ditch the Disposables program, part of Zero Waste DC, aims to reduce the use of disposable foodware throughout the District by providing grants to support transitions to reusable foodware at restaurants and food-serving entities. This can include establishing dishwashing capacity and implementing the use of reusable containers, either in-house or through a third-party entity. Some grantees include:

  • American University for 5,000 reusable to-go containers for student use at the dining hall, eliminating 2,571 lbs of waste per semester.
  • Army Distaff Foundation for reusable containers to be used by 170 residents at an independent living care facility, which will prevent 8,760 lbs/year of waste.
  • Lin Catering for a transition to reusable catering supplies, dishware, and an energy efficient dishwasher that will result in 1,000 lb/year in waste reduction.

To find out more about the grant and grantees, visit this webpage.

DC Flood Awareness Week Draws a Crowd

During last month’s DC Flood Awareness Week, DOEE, the Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency partnered with the Anacostia Parks and Community Collaborative to host the Flood-Ready Youth Workshop at Anacostia High School. During the event, students explored a post-flood virtual reality scenario, toured DC’s Mobile Command Bus, located familiar properties near the floodplain, and practiced their engineering skills with a watershed simulator. This was one of the many programs held from June 21 to June 24 to raise awareness and build community capacity for flooding.



Request for Applicants for the Chesapeake Bay Program Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Coordination Grant

DOEE seeks eligible entities to field a person(s) who will facilitate and coordinate the implementation of key elements of the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Implementation Plan. The DOEE-CBP partnership seeks to advance a vision of clean water, abundant life, conserved lands, public access to water, a vibrant cultural heritage, and a diversity of engaged citizens and stakeholders. The deadline to apply is July 22 at 11:59 p.m.For more information and to apply, visit this webpage.

Request for Applicants for the Enhancing Green Infrastructure Community Benefits Grants

DOEE seeks eligible entities to increase the benefits that District Stormwater Retention Credit - generating green infrastructure provides to property owners, nearby residents, and other stakeholders, with a focus on historically marginalized communities and communities that face historical or current environmental injustices. These grants will fund projects that implement a participatory planning and design process to identify community-identified green infrastructure benefits, in addition to stormwater runoff reduction, and develop best practices for future engagement with communities towards identifying their desired green infrastructure benefits. The deadline to apply is August 5 at 11:59 p.m. For more information and to apply, visit this webpage.

The 2022-23 DC Futures Program

The DC Futures Program aims to help District college students complete their first associate or bachelor’s degree. The program offers last-dollar scholarships (tuition, fees, and cost of attendance) at three local universities in addition to college coaching, as well as personal and financial support services for all participants. One of the eligible majors is a B.A. in Urban Sustainability from the University of the District of Columbia. The application for the 2022-23 school year closes on August 19. Interested individuals are invited to review the student information and submit a DC Futures Program Application.

Request for Proposals for The Environmental Justice Data Fund

The Environmental Justice Data Fund aims to help frontline communities that have been historically underserved and disproportionately impacted by climate change and environmental injustice. The Fund will enable frontline communities in the United States to use data to unlock resources, increase their access to Justice40 benefits and federal infrastructure funding, and advocate for new policies that empower communities to address past environmental harm and pave the way to a more sustainable, climate-resilient future. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and will close on September 16. For more information and to apply, visit this webpage.


Department of Energy and Environment – Environmental Protection Specialist

This position is in the Green Infrastructure Incentives and Assessment Branch of the Regulatory Review Division within the Natural Resources Administration. The incumbent’s primary responsibilities will be developing, managing, and refining online business processes rooted in software used for applications for permitting programs, green infrastructure incentives, and stormwater retention credit certification. The incumbent will work with other permitting and incentive program staff to identify documentation and program applications submitted through DOEE’s Surface and Groundwater System. The deadline to apply is July 29. For more information, visit this webpage and search for the role using this Job ID: 17865.

Love and Carrots – Landscape Designer

Love and Carrots is seeking an experienced and dynamic landscape designer to join their design team on a full-time basis for the 2022 season. Their design needs range from small row homes and pollinator gardens to property master plans. Duties will include Design, Sales and Customer Service as well as Project Management and Estimating and Billing. For more information and to register, visit this webpage.


Share Your Thoughts with the DC Build Back Better Infrastructure Taskforce

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the DC Build Back Better Infrastructure Task Force earlier this year, which will advise on priority projects to be funded through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The Task Force will be responsible for making recommendations on how to maximize this once-in-a-generation funding opportunity to bolster DC’s competitiveness and resiliency in the region, nationally and globally. The Task Force wants to hear from residents across the District who want to have their say in how they prioritize funding projects. Visit this webpage to share your thoughts.

Help Re-Map the DC Urban Agriculture Map

Sustainable DC 2.0, the District’s sustainability plan, sets an ambitious target of increasing District land under cultivation by 20 acres by the year 2032. To help us track the District’s progress against this target, we are introducing our new resource: the DC Urban Agriculture Map. This map will track the amount of land under cultivation as an urban farm, school garden, or community garden, and as they change over time. By clicking on a site you can access more information about each one, and submit edits if info is incorrect. This is a crowd-sourced map and needs your help! Is your urban farm, school garden, or community garden not represented on this map? Visit this webpage and use the "New Area" button to submit a site. 

Apply to Join the Green Building Advisory Council as a Private Sector Representative

The Green Building Advisory Council (GBAC) is a volunteer commission that makes recommendations on green building policies and monitors the District's compliance with green building requirements. Made up of representatives from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, the GBAC continues to support the District as a leader in green building innovation. To view agendas for upcoming meetings and minutes from past meetings, visit the GBAC webpage. The next GBAC meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 3, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. and is open to the public. The meeting agenda, including a link to join the virtual meeting, will be posted to the GBAC webpage at least 48 hours before the meeting. The GBAC is seeking applicants who live or work in the District to fill one vacancy for a private sector representative. For more information or to apply, visit the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments website.

Join the DC Zoning Commission Racial Equity Tool Roundtable

The Zoning Commission for the District of Columbia is working on its first-ever racial equity tool and wants to hear from DC residents. The Commission will be hosting a roundtable on September 22 at 4 p.m. The Commission asks that community members who would like to testify please register at least 24 hours in advance. For instructions on how to testify, visit this webpage. For more information, visit this webpage and search for the case number: 22-RT1.


Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens’ Lotus and Water Lily Festival

To celebrate the return of an in-person festival, the 2022 Lotus and Water Lily Festival has been split into four weekends each with a specific focus and events. In addition to a larger festival, the park will extend hours until 8 p.m. each Saturday. On Wednesdays, the park will feature kid’s programs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. such as art activities, a drumming class and other hands-on nature activities. The festival will culminate with a weekend of community celebrations during the weekend of July 30 to July 31. For more information, visit this webpage.


Ward 7 Open Streets Event on Benning Road

Open Streets in Your Neighborhood is coming to Ward 7’s Benning Road NE this July 30, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ! The event will close 0.75 miles of Benning Road NE to cars and open it to people to ride, bike, walk, socialize, and participate in fun programming. Come see highlights of the Benning neighborhood – from local eateries to the lush green canopies of nearby Fort Mahan Park. Benning Road has access to a multi-use trail that takes you around the entire park – a perfect opportunity to take in the natural beauty of the neighborhood. For more information, visit this webpage.

ward 7

Upcoming Fix-It DC Event

Let’s celebrate repair! Come and learn to disassemble and troubleshoot all your broken objects at the next Fix-It DC event. Fix-It DC is a program which includes all-ages community events where people bring their broken household items and learn how to assess, disassemble, and repair them instead of sending them to the landfill.

Attend the upcoming Fix-It events at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Labs on:

  • Wednesday, August 17, 5:30–7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 17, 2:30–5:30 p.m.

If you would like to learn more about Fix-It DC program, visit the Fix-It DC website.


eCYCLE Collection Events

By recycling used electronics, individuals can help recover valuable resources and properly manage potentially hazardous materials. eCYCLE DC, through manufacturers’ collection and recycling plans, is bringing District residents more options for recycling their electronics.

The following items are banned from the trash and are collected at the eCYCLE DC collection events: computers and monitors, tablet, e-readers, mice, keyboards, DVD or VCR players, printers, televisions, game consoles, and portable music players. For more information, check out this fact sheet.

  • Saturday, July 23, 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. 5601 Connecticut Ave NW (Ward 3, near Chevy Chase Community Center)
  • Saturday, July 23, 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. 1801 Hamlin St NE (Ward 5, Near Woodridge Library)
  • Saturday, July 30, 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. Near 416 Cedar St NW (Ward 4, Near Takoma Park Neighborhood Library)
  • Saturday, July 30, 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. 5701 Georgia Ave NW (Ward 4, near Emery Heights Community Center)

Please visit the eCYCLE DC website to check for any updates closer to the event date.


Lead Free DC by 2030: Read about DC Water’s initiative to replace all lead water pipes throughout the District, prioritizing vulnerable populations and historically underserved communities.

The Voices of the Urban Waterways Project: Hear the voices of the Urban Waterways project, an initiative through the Anacostia Community Museum, as they discuss the far-reaching impacts of polluted waterways.

Order Issued to Phase Out Single-Use Plastics on Public Lands: Read about Secretary Haaland’s order to phase out single-use plastics in lands managed by the Department of the Interior, and ultimately protect public lands and waterways.




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