The Zero Energy (ZØE) Research Laboratory is a unique kind of building in Texas – designed specifically to test and demonstrate various alternative energy generation technologies in order to achieve a net-zero energy consumption of energy. The net-zero energy philosophy is based on a combination of different renewable energy technologies in a building (such as solar, geothermal, and wind systems) which leads to produce enough energy to power a building and in many cases even create excess energy to power a building and in many cases even create excess energy to return back to the power grid and thus the net energy consumption over a period or a year becomes zero.
The lab is over 1,200 square feet and has an open flexible work/laboratory space along with an attached work shop area. There is a living quarter with a bathroom and a small kitchen with a refrigerator. Steel columns/beams were used for building as well as structural insulated panels for the walls and roof. It has a centered utility core for easy operation and remodeling. The sustainability features include: bamboo flooring and millwork, local materials, a recycled glass countertop and backsplash, a rain-harvesting water system, and renewable solar and wind power for energy.
The Zero Energy Research laboratory at the University of North Texas is one of the very few places for students worldwide to get hands-on experience on the green building technologies that will power the future. This facility is a great resource for UNT students, researchers and other industry partners to conduct a multi-faceted research program in renewable energy, energy conservation, and sustainability design.
As ZØE is a research laboratory, there are vast opportunities for the researcher to conduct their research on diverse sectors. The mission of ZØE is to convey all the facilities for a researcher and to generate a path to develop the renewable energy sector for sustainable, cost effective, comfortable building applications.
Dr. Yong Tao, previous Chair of the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering at UNT and the PACCAR Professor of Engineering, spearheaded the design and creation of the lab. Previously, Dr. Tao oversaw a similar project at Florida International University, where he served as an Associate Dean of their College of Engineering and Computing. Dr. Tao also served as the director of the American House project, an initiative that brought together academia, builders, industry sponsors, and lobbyists to create a 3,200 square-foot Net-Zero Energy House. The house was built in Beijing and displayed during the 2008 Olympic Games.