The recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) introduced, in Article 9, “nearly Zero -Energy Buildings” (nZEB) as a future requirement to be implemented from 2019 on wards for public buildings and from 2021 onwards for all new buildings. The EPBD defines a nearly Zero-Energy Building as follows: [A nearly Zero-Energy Building is a] “building that has a very high energy performance… [ ]. The nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should to a very significant extent be covered by energy from renewable sources, including renewable energy produced on-site or nearby.”
Acknowledging the variety in building culture and climate throughout the EU, the EPBD does not prescribe a uniform approach for implementing nearly Zero-Energy Buildings and neither does it describe a calculation methodology for the energy balance. To add flexibility, it requires Member States to draw up specifically designed national plans for increasing the number of nearly Zero-Energy Buildings reflecting national, regional or local conditions. The national plans will have to translate the concept of nearly Zero -Energy Buildings into practical and applicable measures and definitions to steadily increase the number of nearly Zero-Energy Buildings.
Obviously the qualitative nature of criteria in the above-mentioned nZEB definition leaves room for interpretation. While illustrating the major pillars of future nZEB – drastically reduced energy demand and a major share of renewable energy supply - the terms “nearly zero or very low amount of energy”, “very significant extent” (to which the energy required should be covered by renewable energy sources), and “renewable energy produced on-site or nearby” require further examination and definition.
In addition to the flexibility of the general EPBD definition for nZEB, several questions arise concerning the practicalities of a nZEB definition:
• how to keep the nZEB definition sufficiently flexible so as to build upon existing low-energy standards and enable energy-positive buildings?
• how to properly define and set the share of renewable energy?
• how to determine the optimal balance between energy efficiency and renewable energy?
• how to forge the nZEB definition as a ‘silver bullet’ for reaching the same levels of energy and GHG reduction?
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Principles for nearly zero energy houses
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