There is an urgent need to increase the energy efficiency of European building stock. Buildings account for 40 percent of total energy consumption in the European Union.

Nearly zero energy buildings (NZEBs), a new generation of low energy buildings, with integrated renewable energy sources, increased levels of comfort and limited environmental impact, will play a pivotal role in improving European building stock.

Two Intelligent Energy Europe calls for proposal were issued for NZEB projects, one in 2011 (8 projects were awarded IEE funding) and another in 2012 (6 projects were awarded funding). The NorthPass project was a front-runner, being awarded IEE funding in 2008 under a project call that was not focussed on NZEB.

On 28 May, 2013, 17 participants representing different IEE NZEB projects gathered for a workshop. The aim was to exchange ideas and knowledge, and to improve collaboration amongst participating projects. This workshop was the first time all IEE NZEB projects met together.

The workshop included a number of presentations:

  • Robert Nuij, DG ENER presented a study undertaken by DG ENER titled Towards nearly zero-energy buildings –definition of common principles under EPBD.
  • Thomas Boermans, ECOFYS presented on a study commissioned by DG ENER on
    cost optimality.
  • Gilles Vaille, BUILD UP, highlighted the existing NZEB community on
    BUILD UP as a valuable source of information.
  • Heike Erhorn-Kluttig, CA EPBD, outlined NZEB developments in Concerted Action EPBD and
    presented a study on MS experiences and challenges of setting cost optimal levels for energy performance requirements.

Many common themes emerged from the workshop. Achieving reductions in energy use and improving building performance requires joint effort from all Member States. It is apparent that many member states face similar obstacles and only by learning from each other — e.g. by comparing definitions and strategies—can ambitious NZEB targets be reached.

The consensus was that there are many obstacles to overcome before NZEB is widely implemented in the building sector. Increasing the number of NZEB buildings in Europe is hampered by the lack of clear definitions and guidance in Member States. As a matter of urgency, Member States should finalise and report their NZEB definition and national action plans for increasing the number of Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings. In doing so, member states will provide reassurance to the NZEB market and increase the number of NZEBs throughout Europe.

The lack of funding and financing mechanisms is also a major problem, which is particularly acute in member states that have been severely affected by the economic crisis.

Banking products for NZEB need to be developed, KfW Bankengruppe was cited as an example because it promotes the construction of new energy-efficient homes and the energy-efficient refurbishment of older residential buildings in particular, with grants and loans at favourable rates.

In Germany and Austria, there is an increased uptake of low energy buildings, which can be linked to the subsidy systems for low energy housing. In Austria, for example, nearly all passive housing is developed in the sub­sidised housing sector, where there are additional grants for the low energy or passive house compo­nents of any development.

Equipping building professionals with the necessary skills, expertise and information to design, construct, maintain and replicate NZEBs is essential if such buil­dings are to be delivered. Demonstration centres, one-stop shops, innovation networks bringing together researchers and planners and mentoring sys­tems would all be helpful in providing support and to increase confidence in the comparatively unknown NZEB sector.

“It’s high time Member States clarify the details of NZEBS and take actionsays Marianne Fujara of the Passive House Institute.

Time is running out – new buildings owned and occupied by public authorities must be NZEB by 2018 while all new buildings must be NZEB by 2020. Member States need to act fast on clarifying the details of NZEBs so that the building sector can turn the NZEB targets into action.

ManagEnergy will host a tour-de-table next month on NZEBs and the building sector – to have your say, please email

The projects represented at the workshop were:

Project Acronym Short Description IEE Call
NorthPass Very low energy buildings in Northern Europe 2008
AIDA Support to NZEBs in municipalities 2011
ENTRANZE Policy support to EPBD 2011
MaTrID Integrated Energy Design for NZEBs 2011
MountEE Support to NZEBs in mountain communities 2011
NZEB2021 Open door campaigns 2011
PassREg NZEBs in regional policy 2011
POWER HOUSE NZC Support to NZEBs in social housing 2011
SustainCo Support to NZEBs in rural communities 2011
COHERENO One stop solutions 2012
EUROPHIT Passive House standards 2012
EPISCOPE Market development 2012
LER-MUH NZEBs in multi-residential buildings 2012
NEZEH NZEB refurbishment in hotels 2012
ZEMEDS NZEB refurbishment in schools 2012
CA EPBD Concerted Action EPBD Not linked to call
ECOFYS Cost optimality study Not linked to call

Relevant links:

A challenge – nZEB

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