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Green Building
Zero Net Energy
Building Science

Zero Net Energy Buildings - Self Study

Marc Rosenbaum • Last updated 04/2022

4.7/5 (view ratings)
367 students
10 modules
15:10 hours
156 assignments

Course description

Developed in partnership with NESEA, EEBA and TEAM ZERO

Master a comprehensive understanding of all of the key components of a zero net energy building—envelope, systems, and renewable energy sources—and how they fit together to confidently create your own designs. During the course, you’ll learn key pitfalls to avoid and get numerical guidelines on sizing peak heat loss, glazing amounts, and solar electric systems.

Marc Rosenbaum, your instructor, is one of the most popular and best-reviewed speakers at NESEA's BuildingEnergy conference every year. He’s an engaging speaker, extremely honest, meticulously detailed, and curious by nature.

"After teaching over 300 participants, I’m convinced self-paced, asynchronous online learning is the way to master and apply new skills and knowledge." —Marc Rosenbaum

You'll need to have Microsoft Excel and some basic excel skills in order to take full advantage of the course and the included Excel calculators and tools. The course includes several tools and calculators developed by Marc over his years designing Zero Net Energy Buildings and are invaluable for professionals in the industry designing and developing ZNEB.

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Continuing Education Units

Approved for: 25 BPI CEUs, 15 PHIUS CPHC CEUs.

Full course outline

Welcome - Orientation Materials

This is a self-study on demand course. This course is self-paced, so you don’t need to be logged in at any specific time. You can get started immediately after you enroll and the course materials will remain in your account with minimum guaranteed access for 12 months (1 year) after enrollment.

  • Marc Rosenbaum - Introduction - Welcome to the Course! (6:28) (06:26 minutes)
  • Course Format, Components, and Expectations - Please Read!
  • All Presentation Slides (PDF) (.pdf)
  • Capstone Project - Optional
Module 1 - What is a Zero Net Energy Building, Energy, Solar Energy

Topics for this week include: Distinctions and definitions, Advances that support widespread implementation. Key components of a ZNEB: Solar orientation, shading, glazing %, Superinsulated building envelope, High R, high SHGC glazing, Airtight construction, Efficient appliances and lighting, Efficient DHW technologies and generation, Heat/energy recovery ventilation, Minisplit heat pumps, ZNE occupants. What is Energy, How Much do Houses Use, Where Does it Go & How Much Energy is in Sunshine? Participants will be able to: - Describe Zero Net Energy distinctions and definitions and advances that support widespread implementation.  - Identify key superinsulated enclosure strategies of zero net energy buildings (ZNEB) - Identify major systems and components appropriate to ZNEB - Explain differing forms of energy, how much energy do typical ZNEBs use, and how to use PV Watts to calculate solar energy is incident on a building

  • Introduction to Zero Net Energy Homes (32:16) (32:16 minutes) Preview
  • READING: Reading a Compass
  • RESOURCE: Zero Energy Project
  • RESOURCE: Zero Energy Buildings - US DOE
  • RESOURCE: Zero Energy Buildings - New Buildings Institute
  • Energy (20:49) (20:49 minutes)
  • READING: NMSEA Energy Primer Sections 1-3
  • READING: Eliakim's Way First Year Report (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Nine Years of Energy Data from Eliakim's Way (.pdf)
  • Solar Energy (29:57) (29:57 minutes)
  • READING: Passive Solar Heating - Whole Building Design Guide
  • IMPORTANT READING! Instructions for new PV Watts (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Marc's Solar Calculator (.xlsx) (.xlsx)
  • WEEK 1 HOMEWORK (.xlsx version) PV Watts (.xlsx)
Module 2 - Methods of Heat Transfer & How They Occur in Buildings, How to Calculate a Building's Heat Loss, Moisture, Vapor Flow, Dewpoint

We'll cover the methods of heat transfer, and learn to calculate the design heat loss of a house. We'll look at moisture transport in buildings, vapor diffusion, dewpoint, and mold. Participants will be able to: - Explain the three principal methods of heat transfer - Calculate the design heat loss of a building - Describe the principal methods of moisture transport in buildings - Describe the relationship between vapor diffusion, dewpoint, and mold

  • Heat Transfer (19:59) (19:59 minutes)
  • READING: Methods of Heat Transfer
  • READING: Thermal Control in Buildings - Straube BSC
  • Calculating Heat Loss (27:00) (26:32 minutes) Preview
  • RESOURCE: Marc's Heat Loss Calculator (.xlsx) (.xlsx)
  • Marc's Room by Room Heat Loss Calculator (.xlsx)
  • RESOURCE: R Value Library
  • RESOURCE: Wikipedia R Value
  • Moisture (37:32) (37:33 minutes)
  • LECTURE RECORDING: "Understanding and Calculating Building Heat Loss to the Ground" (56:39) (56:42 minutes)
  • RESOURCE: Heat Loss to the Ground Lecture slides (PDF) (.pdf)
  • READING: Understanding Drainage Planes BSC
  • READING: Understanding Vapor Barriers BSC
  • READING: Residential Water Management Details
  • RESOURCE: Moisture Control for New Residential Buildings BSC
  • RESOURCE: Building Materials Properties Table BSC
  • RESOURCE: Rain Control in Buildings
  • RESOURCE: Psychrometric Chart
  • RESOURCE: You Can Do It!
  • WEEK 2 HOMEWORK (.xlsx) Calculate the Heat Loss of a House (Solution on 2nd page) (.xlsx)
Module 3 - How to Design, Specify & Test the Air Barrier, Thermal Bridges

We'll cover how to design, specify, and test air barriers. We'll look at the concept of thermal bridging and learn how to calculate the true R value of an assembly. Participants will be able to: - Design and specify the air barrier - Specify testing methods for air barriers  - Identify and calculate thermal bridging - Calculate the true R value of an assembly

  • Air Barriers (41:42) (41:42 minutes)
  • READING: Air Barriers vs. Vapor Barriers
  • Thermal Bridges (29:57) (29:57 minutes)
  • READING: A Bridge Too Far BSC
  • RESOURCE: Marc's Thermal Bridge Calculator (.xlsx) (.xlsx)
  • Week 3 Homework - Part 1: Labeling Wall Section (.pdf)
  • Week 3 Homework - Part 1: Wall section diagram (.pdf)
  • Week 3 Homework Part 1 - One Solution (.pdf)
  • Week 3 Homework - Part 2: Change in Peak Heat Loss Calculation (.pdf)
  • Week 3 Homework Part 2 Solution (.xlsx)
  • Week 3 Homework - Part 3: Use Thermal Bridge Calculator to compare two roof assemblies (.pdf)
  • Week 3 - Part 3 Solution (.xlsx)
Module 4 - Foundation Construction Strategies, Wall Construction Strategies, Roof Construction Strategies

This week we'll look at construction approaches for superinsulated foundations, walls, and roofs. Participants will be able to: - Prioritize investment in ZNE envelope construction strategies - Detail construction approaches for superinsulated foundations - Detail construction approaches for superinsulated walls - Detail construction approaches for superinsulated roofs

  • Foundations (29:32) (29:32 minutes)
  • READING: Understanding Basements BSC
  • READING: How To Finish Exterior Insulation
  • RESOURCE: Building Radon Out
  • Walls (43:25) (43:25 minutes)
  • UPDATE Week 4 - Embodied Carbon - Please Read (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Global Warming Potential of Insulation
  • RESOURCE: David White's Insulation GWP Calculator
  • RESOURCE: Carbon Drawdown Now! Video
  • RESOURCE: Architecture 2030 Embodied Carbon in Buildings
  • RESOURCE: Builders for Climate Action Embodied Carbon Calculator
  • RESOURCE: HeadLok application table (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Lstiburek's Barn case study
  • RESOURCE: High R Value Walls (updated 10/17) (.pdf)
  • Roofs (26:14) (26:14 minutes)
  • READING: Lstiburek's Roof Venting Rules
  • WEEK 4 Homework: Model a High R Value Wall and Roof (.pdf)
  • READING: High R Value Roofs (.pdf)
  • Week 4 Homework - Possible Solution (.xlsx)
Module 5 - Windows and Glazing, Solar Electric Systems, Lights and Appliances

We'll look at the performance of glazings and windows and the types of windows that are available. We'll cover solar electricity systems and how much energy these systems produce. This week rounds out with a look at efficient lighting and appliances. Participants will be able to: - Describe the performance of glazings and windows and the types of windows that are available - Calculate the energy generated by solar electricity systems and the roof area required - Specify efficient lighting - Specify efficient appliances

  • Windows (46:00) (46:04 minutes)
  • READING: Panflashing Windows BSC
  • RESOURCE: Payette Glazing Comfort Tool
  • RESOURCE: Cardinal Glazing Performance Values
  • Solar Electricity (28:18) (28:19 minutes)
  • READING: Solar Electricity Basics FSEC
  • Lights and appliances (13:35) (13:35 minutes) Preview
  • Beyond Zero Net Energy (27:05) (27:05 minutes)
  • RESOURCE - Beyond Zero Net Energy slides (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Energy Star Most Efficient Appliances
  • RESOURCE: Electricity usage calculator 1
  • RESOURCE: Electricity usage calculator 2
  • RESOURCE: Humans Share the Planet
  • RESOURCE: Overhang Shading Calculator
  • Overhang Basics (.pdf)
  • Week 5 Homework - Part 1
  • Week 5 - Part 1 Solution (.xlsx) (.xlsx)
  • Week 5 Homework - Part 2
Module 6 - Heat Recovery Ventilation

This week is all about heat and energy recovery ventilation - the need for ventilation, the basics of system design, what products are available, and the fine points of these systems. Participants will be able to: - Explain the need for heat recovery ventilation - Describe the basics of how heat and energy recovery systems function - Describe the range of heat recovery products are available - Identify potential pitfalls in specifying ventilation systems

  • Ventilation part 1 (59:03) (59:03 minutes)
  • Ventilation part 2 (49:54) (49:54 minutes)
  • UPDATE - Ventilation - Please read (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Fundamentals of Energy Recovery Ventilators Video
  • RESOURCE - CO2 in Bedrooms Brian Just (.pdf)
  • READING: Review of Residential Ventilation Technologies
  • RESOURCE: Home Ventilating Institute Certified Product Directory
  • RESOURCE: ACCA Speed Spreadsheets
  • RESOURCE: Panasonic FV-10VEC2 ERV
  • RESOURCE: Renewaire ERVs
  • RESOURCE: Zehnder ventilation products
  • Marc's Zehnder Comfotube Sizing Calculator (.xlsx)
  • Week 6 Homework: Ventilation System Assignment (.pdf)
  • Week 6 Homework: Ventilation Diagram (.pdf)
  • Week 6 Homework - Possible Solution (.pdf)
Module 7 - Heating and Cooling

We'll cover heating and cooling, showing system approaches for heating, cooling and ventilation together. We'll look at the equipment available for low load homes, focusing on minisplit heat pumps. Participants will be able to: - Describe preferred system approaches for heating and cooling - Describe how ventilation system design affects heating and cooling - Specify heating and cooling equipment available for low load homes - Select the appropriate type of air source heat pumps

  • Fuels and Equipment (19:15) (19:15 minutes)
  • Cooling (24:42) (24:42 minutes)
  • System Approaches and Minisplits (25:23) (25:23 minutes)
  • The Ins and Outs of Selecting Cold Climate Minisplit Heat Pumps (34:24) (34:24 minutes)
  • RESOURCE - Selecting Cold Climate Heat Pump slides (.pdf)
  • UPDATE - Heat Pumps - Please Read (.pdf)
  • IMPORTANT RESOURCE - Cold Climate Heat Pump Specification
  • RESOURCE: Passive and Low Energy Cooling (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Mitsubishi Multi-port Hyperheat (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Mitsubishi Single Zone Hyperheat SUZ Series Tech Manual (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Fujitsu Halycon Brochure (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE Fujitsu Wall Cassette Tech Manual (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE Fujitsu Single Zone Ducted Tech Manual (.pdf)
  • Week 7 Homework
  • Week 7 Homework - Possible Solution (.xlsx)
Module 8 - DHW and Solar Thermal

This week is all about domestic hot water (DHW) - how to calculate loads, how to minimize DHW energy, and equipment available to make DHW efficiently, including a look at heat pump water heaters and solar thermal hot water. Participants will be able to: - Calculate domestic hot water (DHW) loads - Identify strategies that minimize DHW energy - Specify equipment available to make DHW efficiently - Explain pros and cons of heat pump water heaters and solar thermal hot water

  • DHW (39:41) (39:41 minutes)
  • READING: Gary Klein DHW distribution
  • Heat Pump Water Heaters Video
  • RESOURCE: Marc's DHW Calculator (.xlsx)
  • RESOURCE: Drainwater heat recovery
  • Solar Thermal (34:15) (34:15 minutes)
  • READING: Solar Hot Water FSEC
  • RESOURCE: Convert Your Home to Solar Energy - Everett Barber
  • RESOURCE: Solar collector ratings SRCC
  • RESOURCE: Build It Solar
  • Week 8 Homework DHW / HPWH / PV Calculation (.pdf)
  • Week 8 Homework Solution (.xlsx)
Module 9 - Degree Days and Energy Modeling

We'll cover the concept of heating degree days and how to calculate them, then dive into combining what we've learned into an annual energy use model for the house, and sizing the solar electric system to achieve zero net energy. Participants will be able to: - Understand heating degree days conceptually - Calculate heating degree days for a project location - Develop an annual energy use model for the building - Size the solar electric system to achieve zero net energy

  • Degree Days (10:00) (10:00 minutes)
  • RESOURCE: Degree Days.net
  • Energy Modeling (22:06) (22:06 minutes)
  • RESOURCE - Understanding the Energy Modeling Process (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Marc's Energy Model (.xlsx) (.xlsx)
  • Week 9 Homework: Annual Energy Model for Boston, MA (.pdf)
  • Week 9 Homework Solution (.xlsx)
Module 10 - Bringing it All Together With Case Studies and Resources

In this week we will review several case studies to see successful ZNE projects as well review other resources for your own projects. Participants will be able to: - Evaluate the potential of a project to achieve zero net energy - Design a schematic ZNEB project - Study case studies of successful ZNE projects completed in the real world - Locate further resources to improve practice moving forward

  • Optional Final Capstone Project
  • CASE STUDY - Rosenbaum ZNE DER (21:34 minutes)
  • Rosenbaum ZNE DER slides (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY - KERN CENTER Living Building Challenge (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY - Plainfield School Deep Energy Retrofit (54:09 minutes)
  • Plainfield School Slides (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY: Pill Maharam House
  • CASE STUDY: Bindley House (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY: Clarke house (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY: Moomaw House (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY: Livermore House (.pdf)
  • CASE STUDY: Ross House (.pdf)
  • RESOURCE: Rosenbaum House 5 (.pdf)
Conclusion - Feedback and Additional Resources

This is our last module but you still have access to the all of course materials for 12 months (1 year), so keep working and you'll be able to complete the course at your own pace. After your year of access expires you can optionally extend access with a HeatSpring Membership. Enjoy the course and keep in touch!

  • AIA CEUs: Submit request form (within 5 days of certificate)
  • 1 Year of Access to Course Materials
  • Feedback: 2-minute Exit Survey
  • Consider Joining as a HeatSpring Member
  • Certificate of Completion: Request a Certificate


Marc Rosenbaum

Principal, Energysmiths

Marc Rosenbaum, P.E. uses an integrated systems design approach to help people create buildings and communities which connect us to the natural world, and support both personal and planetary health. He brings this vision, experience and commitment to a collaborative design process, with the goal of profoundly understanding the interconnections between people, place, and... Learn more


47 reviews

367 students have taken this course

by Samuel Manning 11/12/2022

I enjoyed that I was able to explore building science concepts and net-zero applications at my own pace. The course covered a wide variety of subjects and provided a depth of knowledge building resources to hone in on each subject.

by Mason Browne 05/24/2021

Excellent way to learn about designing zero net-energy buildings and how to avoid construction mistakes.

by Kate Stevens, Contexts: architecture, teaching, translating 05/21/2021

Great course that teaches you how to see both the forest and the trees. It equips you with an understanding of the general building science principles and the ability to locate/interpret/use specific technical resources for real world application.

by Michael Klement, Architectural Resource, LLC 02/01/2021

This course should be a part of the core curriculum for every architectural college in America. This is foundational information that every architect should have. Marc does a masterful job of bringing together, in one well designed course, a broad spectrum of knowledge, experience and wisdom, with a dash of Marc's wit and humor. For what we are up to at Architectural Resource, this course was spot on. Thank you for your contribution to our industry, Marc. Bravo!

by Jill Brigham, Engineer 12/26/2020

Zero Net Energy Buildings presents a thorough look at practical ways we can all use to make homes use less energy. This course brings together building science and modern energy efficient building systems in a step-by-step manner that will be enlightening to anyone from homeowner, architect, and home builder. Great class - highly recommended!

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Frequently asked questions

How does this course work?

You can begin this online course instantly upon enrollment. This 10 module course is delivered entirely online. This is a self-study, self-paced course and you can set your own schedule to complete the materials. You can begin the lecture videos and other course materials as soon as you enroll. After successfully completing the course, you will be able to generate a certificate of completion.

How long do I have access to the materials?

Students get unlimited access to the course materials as soon as they enroll and for one year (365 days) after enrollment. Rewatch videos and review assignments as many times as you want. View updates the instructor makes to the course as the industry advances. Return to your course anytime with online access from anywhere in the world. After the one year of access expires, access can be extended by joining as a HeatSpring member. A single membership extends access to course materials for all past enrollments.

Is there a certificate of completion?

Yes, when you complete this course you are eligible for a certificate of completion from HeatSpring. You can download your certificate as soon as you have completed all of the course requirements. Students can easily share their verified certificates on their LinkedIn profiles using our LinkedIn integration.

Can I register multiple people?

Yes please visit our HeatSpring for Teams page to get a group discount.

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