Comparative emission analysis of low-energy and zero-emission buildings

Different designs and concepts of low-energy and zero-emission buildings (ZEBs) are being introduced into the Norwegian market. This study analyses and compares the life cycle emissions of CO2 equivalents (CO2e) from eight different single-family houses in the Oslo climate. Included are four ZEBs: one active house, two passive houses, and a reference house (Norwegian building code of 2010). Monthly differences in CO2e emissions are calculated for the seasonally sensitive Norwegian context for electricity generation and consumption. This is used to supplant the previous applied symmetric weighting approach for CO2e/kWh factors for import and export of electricity for the ZEB cases. All the ZEBs have lower use-stage emissions compared with the other buildings or the reference case. Embodied impacts are found to be 60–75% for the analysed ZEB cases, confirming the importance of embodied impacts in Norwegian ZEBs. The lowest total emissions were from the smallest ZEB, emphasizing area efficiency. The highest emissions were from the reference case. By abandoning the symmetric approach, a new perspective was developed for assessing the performance of ZEBs within the Norwegian context. One of four ZEB cases managed to balance out its annual energy-related emissions.