Themeninfos – A compact guide to energy research

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Energy-plus children’s day care centre in Höhenkirchen: The small “users” of this building experience at first hand how this building generates more energy than it consumes
© Fraunhofer IBP
Energy-optimised building
Themeninfo II/2015
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Net Zero Energy and Net Energy Plus Buildings

Buildings generally have the potential and infrastructure to generate the energy required by them on site. This provides the principle behind net zero-energy (Net ZEB) or net energy-plus (Net EPB) buildings, whose numbers are steadily increasing around the world and especially in Germany. They have names like “energy-plus house”, “zero emissions house”, “efficiency house plus”, “activated-plus house” or “solar active house” and, internationally, “net zero-energy building”, “carbon neutral home”, “EQuilibrium™ House” and “Bâtiment à énergie positive”.

Normatively introduced definitions are usually, however, not yet available. With the recasting of the EU’s “Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD)” in 2010, the European Union has already set out its aim of achieving “nearly zero energy buildings”, requiring that all new buildings in the Member States meet this building standard, which is not defined in any specific detail, from 2020 on.

Architects have long used zero energy concepts in order to position themselves in the growing market for “green buildings”. Private clients are thrilled about the sustainability and low operating costs of such buildings. With these concepts, housing associations and real estate companies want to increase the attractiveness of their properties and thus the tenancy rates. And it is not just companies from the eco-industry who are hoping for a marketing edge through net zero energy buildings.

But how should these buildings be actually monitored and balanced in energy efficiency terms? Which period of time should be covered by the monitoring? What should be included in the balance? Are primary energy consumption, CO2 equivalents or energy costs appropriate indicators and how are they converted? How will the buildings be implemented in technical terms and how will this impact on their architecture?


Scientists from 18 nations have addressed these questions under the auspices of the International Energy Agency (IEA). Within the “Towards Net Zero Energy Solar Buildings” Working Group, which was held between 2008 and 2013, they conducted an intensive dialogue on appropriate definitions and assessment methodologies, and discussed their experiences with internationally accepted balancing methods. The German participation was supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy within the framework of its EnOB: Research for Energy-Optimised Building funding initiative. In this Themeninfo brochure, the German participants will be presenting some of their findings, illuminating the historical and energy policy background, and analysing examples from practice.


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BINE-Themeninfo II/2015
(PDF, 20 pages, 2.2 MB)


International Energy Agency SHC
Solar Heating & Cooling Programme, Task 40 - Net Zero Energy Solar Buildings

Obtain the balancing tool for free (Excel)

Net zero-energy projects worldwide
Interactiv map of the EnOB research initiative

EnOB research initiative
Projects, reports, news and analysis from the energy-optimised construction research field