Snohetta 'Zero Energy Building' in Norway

Insulation saves heat and energy, but it takes energy to make it. A Zero Energy Building counts that embodied energy when determining its energy efficiency.

Snohetta Zero Energy Building in Norway

We were really happy to see the following piece from Designboom. On the topic of  home energy efficiency, the Snøhetta Zero Energy Building concept looks beyond 'how much' you insulate, and opens the dialogue about 'how' you insulate.

While we love a well-insulated house here at Ecohome, there is a point where the energy used in the production of insulation can outweigh the energy you will save while heating and cooling a home, thus defeating the whole purpose. The concept of Zero Energy Building brings that discussion to the forefront, and calculates the embodied energy in a home that is all too often overlooked. 

From Designboom

In partnership with the Research Center on Zero Emission Buildings, architecture office Snøhetta has developed the ‘ZEB pilot house’, to serve as an example for ecologically conscious design. Located in Ingdalskogen, Norway, construction is currently in progress on the structure, with a completion date set for September 17, 2014.


The single-family residence is intended for use as a demonstration platform to promote research and education on ‘plus dwellings,’ which are identified as producing more energy than they import. The project utilizes passive and active strategies to accomplish the desired performance aims, while simultaneously focusing on emotive comfort and sense of well being to maintain the non-quantifiable qualities of a home.

While one of the key components to achieving emission neutrality is most certainly the building-integrated photovoltaic array, it's true that for a home to be truly excellent it must also be livable. The best homes don't just house us, but comfort us and nurture us too. To this end, this property boasts fruit trees and a small scale garden to support on site food production, and both an outdoor shower and swimming pool warmed by solar-generated heat surplus.

More from the Designboom piece here:

The residence’s design adheres to ‘multi-comfort’ standards beyond the demands of current building codes in regards to energy use, air permeability, daylight factoring, acoustics, warmth, and indoor air quality. Additionally, the structure meets the requirements for ‘ZEB-OM’ classification, which includes zero emission from all materials used in the construction process and daily operation as well as all user equipment, including an electric vehicle with a minimum annual range of 20,000 kilometers.

To evaluate the building’s performance and ensure it maintains energy requirements for ZEB-OM classification, including a minimum of 100% CO2 offset, the project will be closely monitored and documented over its lifetime.

Zero Energy Building in Norway
Zero Energy Building in Norway © Snohetta Via Designboom


Here is what Lloyd Alter at Treehugger had to say about Zero Energy Buildings  :

How tough is this standard? By comparison, the Passivhaus standard sets a limit on how much energy a building can use, but doesn't care what you build it out of, so many of them are full of foam insulation; ZEB takes the embodied energy of all the materials into account and has to generate "more energy than what was used for the production of building materials, its construction, operation and disposal." As I noted in a post on PowerHouse Kjørbo, (also designed by Snøhetta) this standard would have a rough time in America.

Zero Energy Building in Norway
© Zero Energy Building in Norway © Snohetta Via Designboom

Zero Energy Building in Norway
Zero Energy Building in Norway © Snohetta Via Designboom