The net-zero emissions building (nZEB) performance is investigated for building operation and embodied emissions in materials for Norway’s cold climate. An nZEB concept for new residential buildings was developed in order to understand the balance and implications between operational and embodied emissions over the building’s life. The main drivers for the CO2 equivalent (CO2eq) emissions were revealed for the building concept through a detailed emissions calculation.
Previous investigations showed that the criterion for zero emissions in operation is easily reached by the nZEB concept (independent of the CO2eq factor considered). Nevertheless, embodied emissions from materials appeared significant compared to operational emissions. It was found that an overall emissions balance, including both operational and embodied energy, is difficult to reach and would be unobtainable in a scenario of low carbon electricity from the grid i.e. low CO2eq factor for electricity. In order to make these conclusions robust, a sensitivity analysis was performed on the dominant sources of CO2eq emissions, as well as, on how it impacts the emission balance during the building lifetime. In the baseline work, embodied emissions were evaluated using the EcoInvent database in order to get a consistent life cycle assessment (LCA) method for all the building materials. The first step of this sensitivity analysis is therefore performed to compare embodied emissions when specific Norwegian Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) were used instead of generic data from EcoInvent thus making data more representative for the Norwegian context. In addition, the photovoltaic (PV) system, which supplies renewable electricity to the building, also contributes significantly to the embodied emissions. The second step of the analysis evaluates different PV system design options in order to find the one with highest net emissions reduction. Finally, since the building concept was based on a highly-insulated building envelope, the dominant source of emissions during building operation turned out to be electric appliances. The third step of the analysis thus discusses the energy consumption of electric appliances and how it could be reduced through more efficient products, especially the so-called hot-fed machines (i.e. washing machines, tumble dryer and dishwasher).