Iowa’s Only 2 Net Zero Energy Companies

Iowa’s Only 2 Net Zero Energy Companies
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Iowa’s Only 2 Net Zero Energy Companies

We all know that energy efficiency (e.g. LED lighting, motion sensors, and building automation systems) in our companies can save money and reduce unnecessary consumption of fossil fuels. Perhaps you’ve heard that the culmination of energy efficiency and renewable generation within a business can help them achieve the holy grail, net zero energy use. But what does that mean? And why are there only 2 in Iowa?

Net zero energy buildings:

Generate an amount of renewable energy equal to or greater than the amount of electricity (or other power) consumed.

The residential building trades adopted net zero energy design faster than commercial, due to smaller energy loads required to offset. The Sustainability Living Center on campus at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, is the only net-zero certified building in Iowa thanks to it seeking to meet the Living Building Challenge. It is one of few nationwide that can claim to be “grid positive” via its solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems. Two Iowa businesses—The Sky Factory in Fairfield and the Market One building in Des Moines—are designed to achieve net zero energy, yet have not been certified to date.

A 2010 report, Net-Zero Energy Buildings: A Classification System Based on Renewable Energy Supply Options, was published by the US National Renewable Energy Lab. In it, they provided helpful classifications for net zero energy buildings (NZEB) in four main categories, depending on clean energy sources and whether it was produced on-site or off-site. Purchasing renewable energy credits (REC) is common for buildings counting off-site generation, although it is possible for the building owners to own and operate a wind or solar installation elsewhere which they use to offset the on-site energy consumption.

Net Zero Energy in Iowa

Today, only two Iowa companies operate net zero energy facilities and both are yet to be certified: The Sky Factory and MODUS Engineering. Expect more to follow their lead. My new book includes step-by-step instructions on how businesses achieve these results.

The Sky Factory

The Sky Factory is a privately held fine art and technology manufacturer of founded in 2002 with 35 employees. Their energy-efficient factory in Fairfield, Iowa installed a 54-kW solar photovoltaic system in 2012 to offset all 100 percent of their on-site energy use.


MODUS Engineering

MODUS Engineering is a privately held MEPT consulting firm founded in 1963 with 75 employees. Their offices in Des Moines are in the Market One Building in the East Village. In 2015, the company completed a historic renovation of the 125-year old warehouse, whereas it produces more energy throughout the year than it consumes. This includes 787 solar panels on the roof and parking canopy, 18 geothermal wells 380 feet deep, and 100 percent LED lighting that is 80 percent dimmable based on daylighting levels. The company hopes the building will earn LEED Platinum certification.


Sustainable Business in Iowa

As Kum & Go’s first manager of sustainability in 2010, I wrote my first book and began teaching CSR & Sustainability for the University of Iowa evening MBA program. In 2014, I launched and became the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum and an independent consultant. With the help of an endless amount of Iowa professionals in various fields (see the Acknowledgements page), I just released my second book, Sustainable Business in Iowa: How Leading Companies Profit from Environmental and Social Responsibility. It gives step-by-step guidance on how industry leaders define, measure, and improve their own corporate sustainability programs. The book also highlights over 30 responsible Iowa businesses as case study examples.

The Kindle ebook is free and the paperback is heavily discounted for the first week of promotion, until March 2nd. Get your copy today and help move your company forward!



Adam Hammes is the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, a consultant, author, and motivational speaker. He specializes in helping businesses and sustainability professionals with environmental and social performance.

Check out Adam's new book on Amazon, Audible and Kindle: Sustainable Business in Iowa.

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