Building our Way to Paris: The Zero Net Carbon Buildings Alliance

On June 1st, 2017, as President Trump announced US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, green building professionals met to say #WeAreStillIn! Using the Code Innovations Database project as a springboard for action, the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild and 15 organizations formed a new alliance with a singular goal: Zero Net Carbon Buildings for All.


Today, climate action in the US has to come from the local and state level. With the right policy catalysts, Zero Net Carbon buildings can transform the market and provide equitable access to low-energy buildings for all. Case studies from Belgium, Vancouver, BC, and Pennsylvania will illustrate how the Passive House standard is used to scale up ultra-efficient buildings at near-cost parity with traditional construction.



Learning Objectives:

At the end of the session, attendees will be able to actively:

  • Describe how cities and states around the world use policy catalysts to transform the market, scale up low-energy buildings (both new and retrofit), and dramatically reduce carbon emissions from the beginning.

  • Recite the Statement of Purpose of the nascent Zero Net Carbon Buildings Alliance.

  • Explain the critical need for green building organizations to speak with the collective power of a unified voice, rather than advocating a disparate array of green building approaches and certifications.

  • Promote social equity in the built environment by advocating ZNC Buildings for all, especially affordable housing in frontline communities impacted by pollution and policy


Zack Semke

Zack is a member of Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership Corps as well as a Chief Marketing Officer at NK Architects , a Seattle - and Pittsburgh - based architecture firm dedicated to accelerating the clean energy transition through zero carbon building design. He studied human biology, with a focus on human ecology, at Stanford University (BA, 93). Since then he has worked as a policy advocate for progressive regional planning, a developer and leader of nonprofit community organizations, a taiko (Japanese drum) musician, and an evangelist for Passive House construction.






Chris van Daalen

Chris van Daalen is Principal Investigator of the Code Innovations Database (, an advocacy research program of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild.  The Database documents permitting precedents and policy innovations to support a public-private advocacy partnership to push for codes and policy transformation that make it easier to build green.  van Daalen facilitates the Vision to Action Symposium series (, and convened twelve Symposia in four years on critical topics in sustainable built environment such as green and healthy rentals, electric vehicle charging, and the International Green Construction Code.

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