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Net Zero New Buildings

Denver has a current goal for all new buildings and homes to achieve net-zero energy by 2035, as specified in the 80x50 Climate Action Plan. Denver defines “Net Zero Energy (NZE)” as a new building or home that is highly energy-efficient and fully powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy.  This means that new buildings and homes will be: 1. Highly Energy Efficient, 2. All-Electric, 3. Powered by Renewable Energy, and 4. Providers of Demand Flexibility for the Grid. 

It is paramount that Denver works with the community to plan for and reach these goals.  As a result, the Climate Action Task Force process assisted the new Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency (CASR) in updating their goals and outlining the policies and strategies needed to meet Denver’s Climate goals in an equitable way that transforms the market.  The Task Force recommends:

  • All new homes will be net-zero by the 2024 Building Code.
  • All new buildings will be net-zero by the 2027 Building Code.

Further detail and technical specifications on getting to Net Zero Energy New Buildings will be developed as part of our 2020 Implementation Plan and based on input from stakeholders.  There will be Advisory Group Meetings later in 2020.  There are also newsletters and emails to keep you updated about our work!  Please reach out to our office at (720) 865-9028 or with questions. 


To get to the Climate Action Task Force’s net zero energy (NZE) goals, Denver has two code cycles for homes (by 2024) and three for buildings (by 2027). In addition, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has told cities that we actually need to achieve NZE new buildings by 2020 and the result is that Denver needs to move as quickly as we can to net zero.  

The first step to getting to net zero is through code development.  In 2019, Denver went through the process of updating the Building and Fire Codes.  The code development process included discussions of what the Denver community could do right now in Base Code as well as development of a voluntary Denver Green Code. 


Denver’s 2019 Base Code

The City and County of Denver developed and adopted an updated Building and Fire Code in 2019 based on the 2018 International Codes, including the 2018 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).  The updated Base Code is the new minimum standard for all buildings within the City and County of Denver.  The new Denver base code is 15% more stringent than 2018 IECC for commercial buildings and 10% more efficient for residential homes.

2019 Voluntary Denver Green Code

As part of the code development process, Denver also developed the Denver Green Code.  Based on the 2018 IgCC, the Denver Green Code is a voluntary, incentivized piece of the code that is expected to become mandatory in a future code update. 

For more information on the development process and the Denver 2019 Base and Green Code see below. 

National ICC Code Development for 2021

In November of 2019, five departments within the City and County of Denver voted on the National ICC Codes for 2021 including the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) at the national level to strengthen the national base code and help the whole market advance.

In conjunction with the code development process, Denver developed a definition of Net Zero Energy New Buildings and guiding principles.  They determined that each building will address energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through all-electric equipment, use renewable energy and electricity, and provide demand flexibility to the grid.  These are detailed further below.  Subsequently, Denver began the Implementation Plan for Net Zero Energy and a stakeholder process to ensure community input and feedback for the plan through an Advisory Group of experts. 

Denver Net Zero Energy New Building Definition:

A new building or home that is highly energy-efficient and fully powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy. 

Guiding Principles:

  • We will need incentives to support new construction and the community.
  • As a whole community of buildings, we want to achieve this goal.  We will not achieve it in every individual building.
  • There will be different solutions for different buildings: our goal is to write an implementation plan that requires a fair and consistent level of effort across building types, sectors, and neighborhoods.
  • Stakeholders will help us figure out this path.

This means all new homes (by 2024) and new buildings (by 2027) will be:

  1. Highly Energy Efficient
    • Highly energy-efficient buildings on site
    • Target Energy Use Intensity (EUI) for commercial buildings.  Target ERI for homes.
    • Buildings will have to perform as designed where practical for that building type.
    • Energy efficiency is the step that makes everything more cost-effective.
  2. All Electric
    • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through all-electric equipment in buildings. 
    • No more natural gas in our new buildings and homes.
  3. Powered by Renewable Electricity
    • On-site or off-site renewables focused on additional production. 
    • REC’s (renewable attributes) need to be retired by the customer or the utility and not sold.
    • By 2050 the grid will be 100% renewable. Buildings are part of that equation.
  4. Providers of Demand Flexibility for the Grid
    • Energy storage, grid integration, and flexibility to respond to grid signals.

The City and County of Denver is working with the New Buildings Institute (NBI) to develop a comprehensive Net Zero Energy New Buildings Implementation Plan which will lay out major milestones and required processes to achieve net-zero energy in new buildings and homes. Funding for the document creation is being provided by the American Cities Climate Challenge.

The Implementation Plan is heavily based on Denver stakeholder input to ensure this plan is equitable, accessible, and achievable for all building types and stakeholders.  The City and County of Denver is/will be hosting Stakeholder Meetings to ensure this Implementation Plan provides specific and achievable pathways to net-zero energy new buildings and homes.  The Phase One meeting and an interim meeting were held in 2019 and the meeting notes are available below.  The next stakeholder meeting is planned for later in 2020. 

Phase 1 Meetings: Completed in October 2019

Interim Dec Meeting: Building Policies & Strategies for Climate Task Force*

*If you need assistance reading these documents please contact us at

Phase 2 Meeting: Later in 2020

As part of the Implementation Plan, the two charts below show the paths for commercial buildings and homes.  This visual helps show the story about the work required during the code adoption process in order to meet Denver’s climate goals. The Energy Use (vertical axis) uses the Zero Energy Performance Index (zEPI) as an indication of how buildings are performing in relation to net-zero energy goals.  Ultimately, the charts visualize the major steps needed to achieve Denver’s vision during future code processes of getting to zero energy buildings and homes.

Please contact if you are interested in participating in these meetings or would like to be added to our Net Zero Energy New Building newsletters. 


graph showing Denver's path to net zero enery for comercial properties

graph showing Denver's path to net zero enery for residential properties