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Annex 52 Towards Net Zero Energy Solar Buildings

This is a joint project with IEA Solar Heating and Cooling (Task 40)

Status: Ongoing (2008-2013)

Operating Agent: Josef Ayoub, Senior Planning Advisor, CanmetENERGY, Natural Resources Canada




Energy use and emissions from buildings include both direct, onsite use of fossil fuels and indirect use from electricity, district heating/cooling systems and embodied energy in construction materials. Given the global challenges related to climate change and resource shortages, much more is required than incremental increases in energy efficiency. Currently, a prominent vision proposes so-called "net zero energy", "net zero carbon" or "EQuilibrium" buildings. Although these terms have different meaning and are poorly understood, several IEA countries have adopted this vision as a long-term goal of their building energy policies. What is missing is a clear definition and international agreement on the measures of building performance that could inform "zero energy" building policies, programs and industry adoption.


The objective of the project is to study current net-zero, near net-zero and very low energy buildings and to develop a common understanding, a methodology, tools, innovative solutions and industry guidelines. A primary means of achieving this objective is to document and propose practical NZEB demonstration projects, with convincing architectural quality. The projects will aim to equalise their small annual energy needs, cost-effectively, through building integrated heating/cooling systems, power generation and interactions with utilities.

Sample NZEB: Steinhude Sea Recreation Facility, Steinhude, Germany.
Photo credit: Peter Hubbe

The planned outcome of the project is to support the conversion of the NZEB concept from an idea and a 'slogan' into practical reality in the marketplace. It is anticipated that demonstrating and documenting real projects will also lower industry resistance to adoption of these concepts.

The joint international research and demonstration activity will address concerns of comparability of performance calculations between building types and communities for different climates in participating countries. The goal is to achieve solution sets that are attractive for broad industry adoption.

The scope includes major building types (residential and non-residential), existing and new, for the climatic zones represented by the participating countries. The work will be linked to national activities and will focus on individual buildings, clusters of buildings and small settlements.

Sample NZEB: Environmental Technology Center at Sonoma State University, CA, USA.

Research Areas

  • Analysis, Methodologies & Large-Scale Implications
  • Energy Efficiency and Energy Supply, Simulation and Tools
  • Advanced Concepts, Architecture and Design for Non-Residential and Residential Buildings
  • Dissemination

Case Studies

A Net Zero Energy Buildings Database is under development, which aims to profile net zero energy residential and commercial buildings from around the world, including buildings that were designed to be zero energy and buildings that actually achieve zero energy. *Interested parties are invited to submit their own zero energy residential or commercial building to be included in the database* The database is part of the High Performance Buildings Database, which lists many additional projects.


Case studies, and a supporting sourcebook, guidelines and tools.


Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA


Publications Annex 52

Net Zero Energy Buildings: International Projects of Carbon Neutrality in Buildings

Net Zero Energy Buildings: International Projects of Carbon Neutrality in Buildings
Karsten Voss and Eike Musall, Detail, Germany, 2011, 192 pages, ISBN 978-3-0346-0780-3
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