In September 2018, Mayor Bowser announced that the City of DC is targeting new and ambitious energy goals as part of Sustainable DC 2.0 during the Global Climate Action Summit 2018. Sustainable DC 2.0 is a five-year update to the Sustainable DC plan. Mayor Bowser’s updated climate goals include:

  • Net-Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration: DC joins 18 global cities in pledging to ensure that all buildings, existing and new, will meet net-zero carbon standards by 2050.
  • Advancing Towards Zero Waste Declaration: DC joins 23 global cities in pledging to cut the amount of waste used by citizens by 15%, reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 50%, and increase the amount of waste diverted to 70% by 2030.
  • Equity Pledge: Scores of cities, including DC, committed to increase community-led development and inclusive climate action to achieve environmental, health, and economic benefits for their citizens.

This announcement follows the recent release of DC’s energy and climate action plan, Clean Energy DC.

The US Department of Energy defines Net Zero Energy Buildings as:

Any energy-efficient building, campus, community, or portfolio that produces at least as much energy as it uses in a year, when grid-supplied energy is accounted for at the source (including primary energy for generation, transmission, and delivery to the site)

What does this mean to architects, developers, and real estate owners?

Projects will be expected to incorporate clean and renewable energy supply, electricity system modernization, and electric vehicle readiness and adoption. Projects will be expected to deliver net-zero energy construction, and DC is easing the path for solar and stormwater, zoning regulations, and permitting.

Changes to Energy Code

DC Energy Code is already innovative and industry leading, and now DC will take that leadership position further. In the next few years, DC will mandate net-zero construction for all new projects with the target of total achievement of net-zero energy (including existing buildings) by 2050.

If the prospect of net-zero energy seems a bit overwhelming, download our e-book that lays out a sensible process to achieve net-zero energy for new and existing buildings.


Green buildings and their owners experience several organizational benefits, such as reduced absenteeism, lower staff turnover, reduced medical complaints and costs, improved attitudes and perceptions, and increased productivity – that’s nothing new. What’s new are the incentives that DC area developers can pursue by participating in the net-zero effort.

New Incentives

The City will motivate early-adopter developers by extending new incentive programs for projects that pursue net-zero energy. The DC Green Building Incentives that are already in place include DCPACE, Solar For All, DC Green Bank, and utility rebates and pay-for-performance from DC Sustainable Energy Utility.

These incentives are in addition to the financial benefits that owners experience with net-zero energy projects. Consider this chart:


At Paladino, we have a proven net zero/climate responsive process that can help our architects, developers, and real estate owners to take advantage of the incentives for early adoption and make the business case to go for net zero energy.

Read more about our Net Zero work here:

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  1. […] net zero operations across the country. In Co|Lab’s own backyard, Washington, D.C. recently mandated commercial and residential buildings to be completely net zero by 2050. This is a stepping stone to reach net positive operations, minimizing carbon emissions caused by […]

  2. Where do my partner and I go for a two bed, two bath zero e condo with a charging station for 1 e vehicle?


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