SIG’s Perspective on Achieving Zero Emissions: A Response to the White House RFI

By Jonathan Eckman – ENERGY STAR Consultant
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

Image of a green building The White House has proposed a draft standardized definition of a “zero emissions building” to provide non-mandatory criteria for buildings to be considered as having no operating emissions. Many certification programs, local governments, and private companies are seeking to pursue or require reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, working toward carbon free or carbon neutral operations. A number of terms may be used to refer to related but distinct concepts: “carbon neutral,” “net zero,” and “zero emissions” are often used interchangeably, but they can mean different things. This definition has the potential to be an important reference point for stakeholders to adopt in order to ensure quality and consistency in decarbonization.

What is being proposed?

The core principles in the White House draft definition for a zero emissions building are that the building must be:

  • highly energy efficient | an ENERGY STAR score of at least 75
  • free of on-site emissions from energy use | no on-site combustion of gas, oil, or other fossil fuels (except for emergency generators)
  • powered solely from clean energy | any utility grid electricity consumption is offset with the purchase of renewable energy credits or other clean energy sources

The U.S. Department of Energy released a request for information (“RFI”) to solicit feedback on the proposed definition. (See a link to the draft definition and RFI here.)

SIG’s Response to the RFI

As a full-service sustainability, engineering, ESG, and green finance consulting firm, SIG supports the federal government’s establishment of a definition for zero emissions buildings.  On February 5, SIG submitted a response to the DOE’s RFI in support of the federal government’s establishment of a definition for zero emissions buildings. We provided feedback on alignment with ENERGY STAR, carbon accounting, “zero emissions” vs. “net zero emissions,” and performance standards for energy efficiency and electrification. SIG stresses the need for considering energy efficiency, clean energy generation, and comprehensive documentation and verification to ensure a meaningful zero emissions building definition that accommodates all building types and fosters sustainable practices.

We look forward to supporting private companies, local governments, certification bodies, and other stakeholders as the industry adopts a consistent standard for building decarbonization. This national proposal for zero emissions buildings has the potential to be a significant step forward in our journey towards a healthier nation and planet. At SIG, we’re committed to supporting this goal and to empowering our clients and the wider community to build a future where sustainability is not just an aspiration but a reality. We’re excited to be leading the way and hope you’ll get in touch to join the conversation.

Read SIG’s full response to the RFI here.



Jonathan Eckman headshot | ENERGY STAR ConsultantJonathan Eckman is an ENERGY STAR Consultant at SIG, where his expertise in energy management and sustainability shapes the future of green buildings. With a notable background, including a pivotal role at the New York City Parks Department, he brings a wealth of knowledge to his work. Jonathan’s insights into energy efficiency, compliance, and building optimization are driven by a passion for environmental stewardship, making his professional contributions as impactful as they are essential for sustainable development. Reach out to Jonathan here.

Certified Energy Manager, Certified Building Operator, LEED AP O+M

New York, NY



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