Cost Analysis of Annual and Monthly Net Zero Energy Performance for Multifamily Buildings in the United States

Adam McKittrick, Gregor Henze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus Citations


As the United States continues its progress toward sustainable construction, net zero building design is becoming an increasingly important and popular topic. Two definitions of net zero energy performance, monthly and annual, provide different levels of energy autonomy and efficiency within a building. This article analyzes the viability and incremental cost for two-, three-, and four-story multifamily apartment buildings to reach both annual and monthly net zero energy performance throughout four climate zones in the United States using baseline reference buildings that represent current construction practices. Building size plays a large role in determining the capability for a building model to reach annual or monthly net zero. Two-story buildings are capable of reaching annual net zero with an increase in construction cost of about 4.4–5.6%. Three-story buildings in warmer climates can achieve annual net zero with an increase of about 5.1%, but models in colder climates cannot reach annual net zero performance. Four-story buildings cannot achieve net zero, owing to insufficient building area for solar arrays to produce electricity. Monthly net zero energy performance was significantly harder to achieve, with the only case reaching this goal being the two-story Houston based model, at an added cost of 8.2%. Generally speaking, only small buildings in warm climates will be able to achieve monthly net zero without vastly oversizing photovoltaic systems and increasing costs without adequate payback.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Architectural Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-79217


  • building design
  • construction costs
  • construction management
  • low-rise buildings
  • solar power
  • sustainable development


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