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Green/Net Zero Buildings

Plugging the Plug Load – the Next Opportunity for Net Zero Buildings

In the last five years, net zero mandates and action plans have altered the way designers are approaching their plans for new green buildings. LEED Platinum buildings like the Proximity Hotel1 and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Research Support Facility2 are reducing energy consumption by 40 to 50 percent, getting building design closer to net zero targets. The Integrated Design Associates (IDeAs) design facility uses less than one-fourth of the energy use of a typical office.3 As building design and site situations are optimized for net zero goals, the energy load from non-plug load shrinks – begging the question – how can plug loads be reduced to further decrease the energy consumption pie?


Energy Consumption Pie

This overview describes the plug load problem and offers solutions for two ubiquitous energy consumers – offices and server rooms. The study finds that many barriers to reducing plug load are due to behavior. Energy savings of 44 percent were found to be achievable for these two space types, through utilizing high density servers, water coolers, and PC monitors, virtualizing data servers, and reducing phantom load through standby settings.



Net zero policy is beginning to take effect – pushing for stricter building energy codes with higher levels of compliance. How can behavior changes and smarter equipment also answer the call for energy efficiency?

July 2011

Related Articles:
Reinventing Existing Buildings: Eight Steps To Net Zero Energy >>
Measuring Green Around the Globe >>

1“USGBC Project Profile: Proximity Hotel.” United States Green Building Council. Accessed June 24, 2011.
2Lobato, C., et al. “Reducing Plug and Process Loads for a Large Scale, Low Energy Office Building: NREL’s Research Support Facility.” National Renewable Energy Laboratory. February 2011.
3Kaneda, D., et al. “Less than Zero.” High Performing Buildings. Fall 2010.

Green/Net ZeroBuilding
Building Efficiency
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