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Design Challenges of the NIST Net Zero Energy Residential Test Facility



Betsy Pettit, Cathy Gates, Arthur H. Fanney, William M. Healy


Homeowners and builders have increasingly strived to build low energy use and environmentally friendly homes. As materials and equipment have improved, energy reduction as a goal has increasingly been replaced with the goal of net-zero energy use. But the general approach that has been recommended has always been the same - namely that reduction of energy use through methods that are consistent with the homeowner's means and way of life and the available technologies is the primary goal; on-site generation of energy is simply an alternative, clean and renewable source for the energy required after energy consumption has been reduced as much as is feasible. This approach is reflected in the ten general principles for the design of net-zero energy capable houses that are presented and discussed in the first part of this paper. In the second part of the paper, specific strategies and details are described that were used for the design of the Net Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF), a NIST laboratory in the form of a typical residence for a family of four that has been constructed on the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, MD. This provides a concrete example of a net-zero capable house for which the development of the design is consistent with the ten principles.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1847
Report Number


Net-zero energy residential design, high performance enclosure, energy efficiency


Pettit, B. , Gates, C. , Fanney, A. and Healy, W. (2015), Design Challenges of the NIST Net Zero Energy Residential Test Facility, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed June 13, 2024)


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Created March 25, 2015, Updated October 14, 2021