Terms and definitions for high performance buildings used in the EU Member States

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As first step towards the national application of the nearly zero-energy building definition of the EPBD recast, the EPBD CA has developed an overview of the used terms for high performance buildings, the built examples and the applied definitions. Member States representatives also informed about national incentive programmes for high performance buildings.

List of terms for high performance buildings used in the Member States:

• low energy house

• eco-building

• energy saving house

• ultra low energy house

• 3-litre-house

• passive house

• zero-heating energy house

• zero-energy house

• plus-energy house

• zero-emission house

• zero-carbon house

• emission-free house

• carbon-free house

• energy self-sufficient house/energy autarkic house

• triple zero house

• BREEAM building

• green building

• CSH (code for sustainable homes)

• bioclimatic house

• lider A

• very low energy house

• climate:active house

• TBQ (total quality planning and rating)

Many terms are used in one country only, while others are used in more than one country. The 17 originally listed terms are generally understood and used in more than one country. Low energy house (13 of 14 countries), passive house (11) and energy saving house (7) are the terms used in the highest number of countries.

The definitions of high performance buildings vary widely, not only in the quality of the defined requirements, but also regarding the calculation methods used. Here, examples for both the use of the current national energy performance calculation methods (lider A, 3-litre-house) and for calculation methods that differ from the nationally applied standards, such as the passive house, can be found. In this case, the houses cannot simply be sorted into the different certification scheme labels within the country. It also has to be mentioned that some of the definitions only cover part of the energy uses that have to be assessed according to the EPBD. For example, not all of them include domestic hot water or cooling energy use. Few of the definitions are based on primary energy (for example, the 3-litre-house, which gives a calculated primary energy consumption, is a notable exception) or on CO2 emissions.

Many of the terms for high performance buildings are only defined descriptively and are sometimes accompanied with rough or relative benchmarks. An example of this is the low energy house, which is understood in most countries as a building with a calculated energy consumption that is significantly lower than the national requirements.

An example of a high performance building term with a rather exact quantitative definition is the passive house. Several countries (Austria, Germany, Czech Republic and Denmark) use the same definition, which was developed by a private organisation for the German building market:

• Maximum calculated net energy use for heating: 15 kWh/m2yr

• Maximum total calculated primary energy consumption: 120 kWh/m2a (incl. equipment)

• Required air-tightness value: n50 ≤ 0,6 1/h

Other interesting definitions provided by national experts in the Concerted Action are:

• 3-litre-house (Germany): Calculated primary energy consumption for heating and ventilation (DHW not included), using the national calculation standard, corresponding to maximum 3 litres of oil per m2 (~ 34 kWh/m2yr primary energy consumption).

• Triple zero house (Germany): The annual balance of calculated primary energy consumption is 0. Use of recycled material only (closed material loop). The annual balance of emissions (from energy consumption) is 0.

• Climate: active house (klima:aktiv haus /Austria): The standard consists of four main areas which are:

  • planning and realisation
  • energy and accommodation
  • construction materials and construction
  • health and comfort

Each area contains between 8 and 24 sub-items which are awarded with a certain amount of defined points. For example, solar water heating (covering > 50% of demand) is awarded with 60 points. The designer can add the defined points in each area and the building will be a "klima:aktiv haus" if at least 1,000 points are accumulated.

The reports also include information (provided by the national experts in the CA) on the types and the estimated numbers of high performance buildings that have been built in their countries. Not surprisingly, the terms used in most countries also correspond to the types of buildings which are most often built. This concerns the passive houses, with realised examples in 13 out of 14 EU Member States - including 2 countries where pilot projects have been completed, but the corresponding term is not really used - as well as the low energy houses, with finished buildings in 11 Member States. The other terms seem to correspond to actual built buildings with only 4 out of the 14 countries having finished buildings.