Identify and Engage Key Stakeholders

Advancing ZNE policies and practices in your communities require buy-in and support from multiple stakeholder groups in order to succeed. It is important to identify and begin engaging your stakeholders early on, and to continue building trust and strengthening relationships as you develop policies, plans, and incentives. By integrating outreach, engagement, and education into your internal processes, you will have a more holistic view of how to best achieve your ZNE goals by understanding the different interests, motivations, opportunities, and barriers at play.

Key Resources

Key Strategies

  • Invite key stakeholders into the ZNE planning process early.
  • Conduct a feasibility study at the beginning of the ZNE planning process to encourage stakeholder support for ZNE implementation.
  • Have ongoing communication and collaboration between stakeholders at all stages of the process, including post-occupancy.
  • Provide fact sheets about ZNE definitions and your specific efforts online and at outreach events.
  • Conduct workshops and trainings on ZNE.
  • Host a ZNE building design competition for energy professionals and students.
  • Give tours and demonstrations of ZNE measures in operation at existing ZNE buildings.

Elected Officials and Executive Leadership

Top-down support can speed up the process for ZNE implementation by securing buy-in from internal sources and streamlining approvals. In addition to playing a critical role in advancing local policies, leadership from elected officials and department heads can also assist the ZNE implementation process by making connections with external stakeholders, securing funding for projects, and allocating necessary resources.

Key Strategies and Resources

Building Professionals

ZNE implementation and enforcement is a rapidly growing field that involves a diverse workforce for success at all stages of the process, including contractors who install major building system elements, such as HVAC, lighting, weatherization, and insulation; contractors who install solar and other renewable energy systems; energy raters and commissioners; facilities managers and building operators; and code enforcement officials. Developing expertise within the workforce around ZNE technologies and measures normalizes ZNE efforts within the building industry and expands the knowledge and skill base for more effective performance.

Key Strategies and Resources

Building Managers, Owners, and Operators

Since energy efficiency plays a large role in ZNE performance, it is critical for building managers, owners, and operators to understand how the building’s energy systems work and how to use them properly and efficiently. If possible, these individuals should be involved in the design process to secure their buy-in and ensure that they can advocate for proper energy use to occupants.

Key Strategies and Resources
  • ZNE Communications Fact Sheet for Commercial Building Operators and Owners (NBI)
  • Focus on codes and standards set by the state and your jurisdiction, and how buildings will be required to begin transitioning to ZNE.
  • Focus on cost savings due to energy efficiency and reduced operations and equipment replacement costs.
  • Focus on building resiliency and higher rates of employee retention.

Building Occupants

Building occupants include homeowners, renters, and other residential occupants; commercial and industrial business employers and employees; and public building occupants including public officials and staff, and school administrators, teachers, and students. Building occupants must understand the various energy efficient measures that they come into contact with on a daily basis to maximize ZNE performance. Occupant education and training materials should be developed and presented, which should be geared toward individual occupant types to be the most effective. A key component of occupant education is communicating a clear process for reporting malfunctioning equipment and encouraging behavior change.

Key Strategies and Resources

Schools and Academic Institutions

Schools and academic institutions offer a substantial opportunity for ZNE implementation as they can serve as a living laboratory for new technologies as well as provide student education and engagement around sustainability and its social, economic, and environmental benefits. Prop 39 created additional opportunities for engaging schools in ZNE efforts by providing up to $550 million per year to improve energy efficiency and increase clean energy in public schools and community colleges throughout the state.

Key Strategies and Resources

Real Estate Development

Realtors market ZNE residential homes and commercial buildings to potential buyers and are key for expanding consumer demand for ZNE buildings. Most local governments start by expanding ZNE measures in municipal buildings and then struggle with breaking into private sector development. Building partnerships with realtors can help overcome this barrier to achieve ambitious residential and commercial ZNE goals.

Key Strategies and Resources
  • Home Energy Score (DOE)
  • Partner with the Association of REALTORS to train and certify real estate brokers and appraisers in energy efficiency and how to market energy efficient homes.


Utilities support ZNE implementation efforts in many ways, which include providing valuable energy usage data, technical expertise, funding opportunities, and educational resources.

Key Resources

Related Programs and Opportunities

ZNE goals often overlap with the goals of other existing programs, such as LEED certifications and PACE programs. There are also many organizations working in the this space, such as New Buildings Institute and the International Living Futures Institute, as well as many other statewide and regional organizations including Build It Green, Center for Sustainable Energy, The Energy Coalition, and BayREN. Coordinating with these programs and organizations will help you leverage limited resources to maximize your impact.