News article

Net zero energy buildings: What is net zero energy?

Help build a sustainable future through a better understanding of zero-energy buildings.
Net Zero
30 January 2024

In an effort to halt climate change, governments around the world are setting targets to encourage the construction of zero energy structures, in line with the Paris Agreement to achieve 'net zero' by 2050. This article examines the nuances of net zero energy or energy neutrality, explores the difference from net zero, and outlines the requirements for constructing zero energy buildings.

What is net zero energy?

The term net zero energy pertains to a building's energy consumption. A property is deemed zero energy if its energy consumption adds up to zero on an annual basis. Net zero energy or energy-neutral buildings, therefore, use minimal energy. They generate the energy they consume themselves, for instance, through solar panels. In a net zero energy building, energy performance plays a crucial role.

Ready to revolutionize your road to Net Zero?

Discover the power of digitization for achieving your buildings' Net Zero goals in our exclusive whitepaper.

Download FREE whitepaper

What is net zero?

The concept of net zero is broader than energy-neutral. Net zero concerns not only energy consumption but the overall emission of greenhouse gasses like CO2. The term "net zero emission" is significant as it marks the point at which global warming halts. Buildings, as well as processes, products, and modes of transportation, are net zero or climate-neutral when they have no (negative) impact on the environment. This is achieved by minimizing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and offsetting the remaining emissions, for example, through tree planting.

What is a net zero energy building?

Certainly, we need to make our buildings more sustainable to make them energy-neutral or even net zero. But what exactly is a net zero energy building? The meaning of 'zero energy' can vary from one building to another:

  1. The building relies solely on renewable energy, such as that generated by solar panels. Fossil energy is not used.

  2. The building and user-related energy consumption amount to precisely zero on an annual basis. This encompasses the total energy usage minus the yield from local sustainable sources. Such an energy-neutral office, commercial building, or residence is also known as 'zero on the meter.'

  3. On an annual basis, the building has a total energy usage (including building, user, and material-related) of precisely zero. In this definition of zero energy, the energy required for construction, maintenance, and demolition is also included. The building and the construction process are, therefore, energy-neutral.

Net zero carbon buildings or carbon neutral buildings

When defining net zero and carbon neutral aspirations, it's crucial to understand the specific category of net zero carbon buildings. These structures focus not only on minimizing energy consumption but also on completely offsetting carbon emissions, contributing to a more sustainable future.

What is the difference between carbon neutral and net zero?

While both aim to minimize environmental impact, net zero extends beyond energy consumption to encompass overall greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon neutral, on the other hand, specifically addresses achieving a balance between emitted and sequestered carbon.

All commercial buildings net zero by 2050

Globally, companies and governments are aiming for a net zero economy by 2050. On the path to being energy-neutral, they aim to halve CO2 emissions by 2030. To achieve net zero energy, the requirements for the energy usage of our existing and new buildings are gradually becoming stricter throughout Europe. 

An example of this is the Netherlands. From 2023, offices must have an energy label C. Other commercial buildings, as well as hospitals, hotels, schools, and residences, are already required to have an energy label when sold, rented, or delivered. Currently, there are no requirements for the level of this label, but it is only a matter of time before rules are established. Government buildings, municipal real estate, and other buildings with a public function larger than 250 m2 set an example in the energy transition and are obliged to display the energy label visibly.

Buildings Green

Reduce your building's energy usage and CO2 emissions with Priva

It is evident: sustainable, net zero buildings are the future. With Priva's building management solutions, you are investing today in tomorrow's world. Sustainable building management reduces your building's energy usage and CO2 emissions. However, optimal building management is not only good for the environment.

Smart building automation also ensures a good indoor climate and, consequently, healthy and productive employees. Additionally, you benefit from lower energy costs as our intelligent hardware and software efficiently control your systems. Moreover, a smart building management system makes your building more flexible, future-proof, and, therefore, more valuable.

Would you like to know how we can assist you in making your building more sustainable while simultaneously creating an optimal indoor climate for your employees? Contact us. We are pleased to provide personalized advice.

Make your building future-proof: Kick-start energy savings!

Did you know you can save up to 30% in energy spending with simple measures?

Download FREE checklist

Want to learn more about sustainable buildings? Read more

Officebuilding General Small
Office climate control: Healthy workplaces and offices
Page Hero Market Healthy Learning Environment Small
Building automation in school: Healthy learning environments
Office Building Istock 479842074 Crop
What is BREEAM? 7 steps to achieve BREEAM certification

Want to know more? Lets have a chat!

Bill Whittaker

Business Development Manager

Bill Whittaker