net-zero-homeowner Robert Howe’s reaction to the oil embargo of the mid-1970s was to build his own thermal shutters for the windows of his home. A lifelong advocate of energy conservation, Howe, 69, is now pouring his passion for energy efficiency into a net-zero energy home he and his wife are building in Brunswick. The 2,400-square-foot home will integrate solar panels, heat pumps and insulation techniques to create a home that produces as much as energy as it consumes.

While there are no hard data on the construction of net-zero energy homes, there are data that show an increase in the broader area of energy-efficient homebuilding. The share of the single-family home construction market dedicated to green construction grew from 8 percent in 2008 to 17 percent in 2011, according to a report published last year by McGraw-Hill Construction. The report estimates that green home construction – defined as environmentally responsible and energy-efficient, but not necessarily net-zero – will grow its market share to between 29 percent and 38 percent by 2016. The numbers suggest that net-zero energy homes, as a subset of the green homebuilding market, are moving toward wider adoption.

The federal government has committed to embracing net-zero energy construction. President Obama issued an executive order in 2009 that calls for all new federal buildings to be designed as net-zero by 2030

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