Press Release: IEA SHC Position Paper on Net Zero Energy Buildings now online

Posted: 2015-08-26

Actions Needed to Pave Way for Net Zero Energy Buildings

August 2015.  Buildings are responsible for 40% of global primary energy use and 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  And for this reason, architects and builders are taking on the challenge – how to create highly energy-efficient buildings while remaining cost competitive. One vision promoted by stakeholders in many countries is Net Zero Energy Buildings (NetZEBs). The IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme (IEA SHC) recently published a Position Paper on this topic. The 10-page paper is based on the insights of 82 experts from 19 countries, who conducted a collaborative research project through the IEA SHC Programme and the IEA Buildings and Communities Programme (IEA EBC).

Whether newly built or retrofitted, whether office building or single-family home – becoming a Net Zero Energy Buildings is possible. However, this Position Paper considers low-energy single-family homes and low-rise buildings in moderate climate zones to be the most feasible building type to fulfill net zero-energy standards.

So what is a Net Zero Energy Building? The experts in this project established a framework for driving towards net-zero energy targets for a building by making the building as energy-efficient as possible through integrated design and energy-saving technologies, adding renewable energy on-site and ensuring optimal building performance over time by balancing on-site generation and demand from the grid.  
To help designers accept these ambitious building targets, the IEA SHC and IEA EBC Programmes have documented 30 successful NetZEB case studies in cold, hot and tropical climate zones.

Technological Advancements and Actions Needed

Creating a NetZEB is a complex job as it requires taking into consideration the design of the building`s envelope and future operation – two aspects that are often considered separately. According to the Position Paper, what is needed are more technological advancements, such as the development of efficient building automation systems, as well as small but optimally controlled heating and ventilation units. And, software tools should support builders in balancing energy demand, investment costs and renewable onsite production.

To support the deployment of net zero-energy practices, the researchers created a list of market-oriented measures:

  • Establish building label/certification to help inspire building owners and designers.
  • Accredit professionals.
  • Create virtual dashboards that highlight energy flow and consumption in a given NetZEB.
  • Give out handbooks, publications and guidelines to motivate NetZEB practitioners.


Further information: 

About the International Energy Agency’s Solar Heating and Cooling
Programme (IEA SHC):

  • The Programme was established in 1977.
  • Its objectives are co-operative research, development, demonstration and exchange of information regarding solar heating and cooling systems.
  • 20 countries, the European Union and four organizations are IEA SHC members.
  • The research topics of the current 8 projects range from general topics, such as “Solar Resource Assessment and Forecasting”, system research, such as “New Generation Solar Cooling and Heating” to market support and integration topics such as “Solar Rating and Certification” “and Solar Energy in Urban Planning”.
  • Additional information:  

Contact information:

IEA SHC Information Center:
Pam Murphy,