The European Near Zero energy buildings project: the greatest energy and green building project ever

The directive 2010/31/EU requires that all “member states shall ensure that by 31 December 2020 all new buildings are nearly zero-energy” (the Directive also states that from 2018 on all public buildings should be energy-zero).

Simple and anodyne as it may seem, this project holds tremendous implications. It’s simply the greatest energy and green building project ever undertaken worldwide. And perhaps the one with the biggest impact on climate change.

It does not differ from the California’s Zero Net Energy Buildings 2020, but involves also non-residential buildings (California’s project only requires non-residential buildings to be energy zero by 2030) and is a much bigger project (the EU population amounts to 500 million people, while California's population is about 38 million).

A mega project

The importance of this project is not fully realized outside of a few inner circles. People often forget that buildings consume about 40% of the primary energy, and that they are – for this reason - the main responsible for CO2 emissions.

By cutting the energy consumed by buildings to zero, the project will free-up energy for the future electric vehicle network and the industry.

Combined with smart grids, electric vehicles and ambitious energy-efficiency programs in the industry, Zero Energy Buildings will make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy much more achievable, besides being a major tool in the fight against climate change.  

And since it involves two major business sectors - the building and the energy sector - this initiative will be a multi-trillion euros project, able to make a huge positive impact on all areas of the European economy.

Difficulties & Germany leadership

Obviously, it will not be easy. Southern European countries are in a deep crisis, with their construction sector in a deep recession… And with scarce new construction, the impact of the project will not be significant in these countries.

The divide between Germany (and some other northern european countries) and the European’s south remains a very real issue. Germany is now a world-leading market in the energy-efficiency field. Germany’s state development bank has stimulated private energy-efficiency investments of over EUR 34 billion/about 46 billion USD in 2013.

Germany’s goal of a 20% reduction in primary energy consumption by 2020 and 50% by 2050, is being fully met, following a well-known German discipline.

The Passive house project – largely a German invention – is also gaining traction and importance, and is increasingly connected to the Zero Energy Buildings project (see: Passive Houses & Zero Energy Building).

Anyway, the ZEB project also offers a wealth of opportunities to other European countries. The European Union has set out significant funding opportunities, open to businesses, local governments and many other national players all over the Europe.

NZEB framework

As expected, the European Near Zero Energy Buildings project framework is very similar to the one adopted by California, and includes...

    - Review and alignment of regulations, policies, incentives and codes, making ZEB mandatory.
    - Information and awareness campaigns on the importance of ZE buildings, involving builders, architects and other building professionals but also schools, local governments and the public in general.
    - Training of the industry’s workforce and professionals.
    - The availability of technical tools for designers and builders.
    - Financing programs, in order to ensure the affordability and viability of Zero Energy Buildings
    - Support to modular and technological improvements, supply chain businesses (high performance window manufacturers, for instance) and to smart utility grids.

Sites and projects involved on the European NZEB

Many of the most important organizations and initiatives associated with the European Near Zero Energy Buildings project have a national scope. But there are also institutions and initiatives with a European transnational scope;.

Build Up – Europe's portal on energy reduction in buildings. It gathers practitioners and professional associations and motivates them to exchange best working practices, knowledge, tools and resources.
Build Up Business Partners
EnergyCities - the European Association of local authorities committed to energy transition. It represents more than 1,000 towns and cities in 30 countries.
Covenant of Mayors, Seap Plus and Net-Com - a European movement involving local and regional authorities, committed to increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources. These organizations aim to meet and exceed the EU 20% CO2 reduction target by 2020.
Entranze - project intended to connect building experts from European research and academia to national decision makers and key stakeholders.
MaTrID – project supporting the use of Integrated Design approaches and tools in the ZEB building design phase.
Repowermap – an initiative to promote renewable energies and energy efficiency by making visible real-world examples and related local information.
MountEE – a project that supports local energy-efficient and sustainable building in European mountain regions.
SustainCO - Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities projects.
Clipma - Training courses for municipal climate protection managers in Central Europe;
SouthZEB – Training and Certification for NZEB designers.
ZEMEDS – a project that aims to support NZEB schools
Cohereno (BPIE and SINTEF) – a project aiming to strengthen collaboration between businesses for realizing nZEB renovations in single family owner occupied homes.
3ENCULT - energy efficient retrofits in historical buildings.
DIRECTION - project that aims at demonstrating how the use of very innovative and cost-effective energy efficiency technologies in new buildings.
AIDA - Raising awareness towards nZEB among local authorities and building planners.
CABEE – new and refurbished Nearly-Zero-Emission-Buildings (NZEB) and their neighborhoods in the Alpine region.
UMBRELLA -  development of a web-based decision-support application tool to support the NZEB project
Construction21:   a multi-stakeholder collaborative platform dedicated to all professionals active in the sustainable building sector.
Episcope – a project to make the energy refurbishment processes in the European housing sector more transparent and effective.
EA SHC Task 40 – a project aiming to document and propose practical nZEB demonstration projects, with architectural quality.
iNSPiRe -  producing systemic renovation packages that can be applied to NZEB.
RetroKit (SINTEF) - develop a retrofit toolbox integrating flexible prefabricated solutions to upgrade existing buildings and their envelope.
MEEFS - Multifunctional Energy Efficient Building Facade System for Building Retrofit
Bricker - System to retrofit existing public-owned buildings; goal: to achieve at least 50% energy consumption reduction

Supporting the Zero Energy Buildings European Project

You may support the European Near Zero Energy project by using the graphic shown below. You just have to copy the code next to the graphic, and past it on your page.

Zero energy buildings europe

You can use the image above FREELY as long as you include attribution to
COPY THE CODE BELOW AND PASTE IT in your post or page.
For dozens of other images that you can use freely see this list.

Zero energy buildings uk

You can use the image above FREELY as long as you include attribution to
COPY THE CODE BELOW AND PASTE IT in your post or page.
For dozens of other images that you can use freely see this list.

See also:
USA and California Zero Energy Bui
Japan & Zero Energy Buildings
China & Zero Energy Buildings
India Zero Energy Buildings
Australia Zero Energy Buildings



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