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Zero Energy Schools - Completed


Energy consumption represents the second highest operational expense to schools, second only to salaries. Each year, a significant portion of taxpayer dollars are spent on school utility expenses, thereby cutting into funding that could be allocated to resources for students. On average, zero energy schools can use between 65%–80% less energy than conventionally constructed schools, and the remaining energy required is supplied by renewable energy. In addition, zero energy schools can become prominent community landmarks that educate a new generation of students with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills critical to our nation’s future.

Accelerators News

The latest Energy Department breaking news, announcements, and updates featuring Better Buildings Accelerators.

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Case Study

Zero Energy Is an A+ for Education: Discovery Elementary Case Study

A case study of Discovery Elementary School, a zero energy school in Virginia, that came in under budget and being more energy efficient than designed, saving $100,000 per year in energy costs.

Odyssey Elementary: A Zero Energy Building Pays for Itself Case Study

A case study of Odyssey Elementary School, a zero energy school in Utah featuring various glazing, envelope, renewable, and HVAC technologies.

Zero Energy With an Affordable Price Tag: Friends School of Portland Case Study

A case study of Friends School of Portland, a zero energy school in Maine that achieved both zero energy performance and passive house certification on a modest budget.

Fact Sheet

Better Buildings Zero Energy Schools Accelerator Fact Sheet Fact Sheet

The Zero Energy Schools Accelerator aims to make Zero Energy K-12 schools mainstream, while enhancing the educational environment for our nation’s students.


Designing for the Future: Zero Energy Ready K-12 Schools Guidance

Learn how designing, building, and operating zero energy ready K-12 schools provide benefits for districts, students, and teachers.  Includes a checklist and best practices summary for achieving a zero energy ready school. 

Zero Energy Schools: The Challenges Guidance

School districts have encountered and overcome challenges to achieving zero energy in school buildings.  Here’s how they accomplished it. 

Zero Energy Schools: Architects Take the Lead Guidance

Zero energy schools are possible and practical, and architects are leading the way. This gives examples of how architects can communicate the benefits of zero energy goals to school districts, teachers and the community, and best practices architects use to achieve a zero energy design. 

A Common Definition for Zero Energy Buildings Guidance

Access definitions for a zero energy building which produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, thereby reducing the use of non-renewable energy in the building sector.

Technical Feasibility Study for Zero Energy K-12 Schools Guidance

This technical feasibility study, published by the National Renewable Energy Lab, provides documentation and research results supporting a possible set of strategies to achieve source zero energy K-12 school buildings according to the DOE definition of a zero energy building (ZEB). This feasibility study applies to elementary, middle, and high school buildings.


Building Brighter Futures Through Zero Energy: Discovery Elementary School Video

Arlington County is facing massive growth in the next decade and is seeking to add half a million square feet in educational facilities. Discovery Elementary is Arlington's first zero-energy school. Not only did the project come in under budget, but the building is more efficient than originally predicted. Now Discovery saves $100,000 per year in utility costs, enough to cover the salaries of two teachers.

What is a Zero Energy Building? Video

Most buildings today use a lot of energy -- to keep the lights on, cool the air, heat water, and power personal devices. Even installing solar systems will not significantly counter the heavy energy load. There are, however, some buildings that strike a balance; or even tip the scales the other way!