Buildings (MDPI AG)

“HEROES OF ZERO – implementing the lessons learned from pilot programs towards achieving low-energy or no-waste in buildings, communities, and cities”

Guest Editors:

Dr. Francesco Guarino

Department of Energy, Information Engineering and Mathematical Models, University of Palermo; Palermo, Italy

Dr. Therese E. Peffer

California Institute for Energy and Environment; Berkeley, CA, USA

Dr. Luciano De Tommasi

United Technologies Research Center, Cork, Ireland


The transition towards a low-carbon energy system has become an important scientific target of the next decades. Now that ‘business as usual scenarios’ describe an increase in the average temperature of the globe of around 6 °C, it is time to act towards decarbonization in all sectors. Obviously, doing so in the building sector is paramount, either in building efficiency or resources savings and recovery, since such sector already accounts for around 40% of primary energy used in the world and 35% of greenhouse gases emission.

The action in the building sector is usually based on the concept of nearly/net zero energy in buildings, although with several specific definitions worldwide. In EU Nearly zero-energy buildings are defined as having very high energy performance, whose low amount of energy required comes mostly from renewable sources. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires all new buildings to be nearly zero-energy by the end of 2020. All new public buildings must be nearly zero-energy by 2018 [EC, 2014].

According to the definition from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Net Zero should focus also water and wastes besides energy, thus consuming only as much energy as produced, achieving a sustainable balance between water availability and demand, and eliminating solid waste sent to landfills [EPA, 2017].

However, progress is slower than expected: such high-performance buildings are still not yet ready for mass deployment in the market: although most technologies employed are mature, financial barriers are considered by the stakeholders as the main one, together with limited development of innovative retrofitting technologies, lack of ambitious policies and energy plans or scaling up of single pilot projects. Moreover, the substantial gap in reliable data on current market activities and on monitored data related to savings and maintenance costs makes it difficult for policy-makers to evaluate the success of their policies [ZEBRA2020 project, CERtus project].

Keywords include but are not limited to:

  • Nearly/net zero-energy buildings (interventions…);
  • Net-zero waste and net-zero water use in buildings;
  • Passive & autonomous buildings (strategies, tech);
  • Positive energy (blocks of) buildings & communities;
  • Self-consumption & off/zero-grid locations & cases;
  • Workforce upskilling & legislation towards net-zero;
  • Initiatives towards 100% renewable energy sources;
  • Cost-benefit analyses & net-zero funding schemes;
  • Negative emission technologies (cases, research);
  • Impact of net-zero in building stock & climate, etc.

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