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What are the drivers and barriers for the construction of residential NZE buildings and settlements?

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In the ZERO-PLUS project report “Market analysis of trends in the construction of residential highly energy performing buildings” a significant amount of information on barriers and drivers for the construction of highly energy efficient buildings, and for renovation programmes at the district or settlement level that improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings has been collected and reported.


It goes without saying that the drivers and barriers for the construction of new buildings, which are summarised here, are significantly different to those for the renovation of existing buildings. Differences may also exist between countries and for different stakeholders.


To the knowledge of the authors of the report a previous study focusing specifically on barriers and drivers for the construction of Net Zero Energy (NZE) Settlements as opposed to NZE Buildings was not available at the time that the report was written.


The drivers


The key drivers for the construction of residential NZEBs are categorised in a number of key areas:


  • Legislation – transposition of the EPBD and other EU directives to national legislation
  • Demand – demand can be considered as a market driver while lack of market demand may be seen as a barrier
  • Financial drivers – various types of financial drivers may exist spanning from funding for the realisation of a project to reduced energy cost savings
  • Public sector support – as distinct from pure legislation, such as demonstration programmes and buildings, research work, communication with and education of various groups
  • Awareness and knowledge – in particular awareness of consumers that NZEBs may be more comfortable or to actors in the supply chain, who are familiar with the solutions that exist for building NZEBs and NZE settlements

The barriers


The barriers are categorised in the following key areas:


  • Technological barriers – the lack of skills and expertise throughout the construction sector, but also uncertainty as to how new technologies perform
  • Economic & Financial barriers –high costs of construction, and the difficulty of obtaining financing
  • Regulatory and legislative barriers - the unclear definition of NZEB and a lack of policy coherence
  • Market organisation barriers - a lack of communication and insufficient partnerships within the sector
  • Awareness and knowledge (credibility) barriers - a lack of familiarity with existing solutions by professionals is exacerbated by the lack of mainstream examples of good practice and robust data from nearly zero energy homes, which has created an environment of confusion and misinformation
  • Institutional barriers – the construction industry is a conservative one, and there is resistance by constructors and developers to the changes needed in order to build reliable NZEBs at a large scale
  • Social and behavioural barriers - saving energy depends a lot on the users themselves and not just the design of the buildings and its systems