The Implementation of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (nZEB) in Spain: Legislative Requirements and Policies

The Implementation of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (nZEB) in Spain: Legislative Requirements and Policies

Elisa Peñalvo-López (Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain), Javier Cárcel-Carrasco (Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain), Manuel Valcuende-Paya (Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain) and María Carmen Carnero-Moya (University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain & Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7152-0.ch018


The construction segment is an important economic sector in Europe, representing 9% of European gross domestic product (GDP) and providing approximately 18 million direct jobs. Construction activities that include renovation work and energy retrofits add almost twice as much value as the construction of new buildings, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) contribute more than 70% of the value added in the EU building sector. Furthermore, European legislation obliges member states to establish minimum energy efficiency requirements for buildings to achieve optimum levels of costs versus energy demand reduction. These requirements are reviewed every five years and represent categories of buildings based on their energy levels (demand and generation). This chapter analyzes the legislation associated to nearly zero energy buildings (nZEB) in Spain in order to identify the factors that will leverage their massive implementation.
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Construction is one of the most energy demanding segments in Europe composed in great extent by SMEs (JRC,2015). Based on this, on 30 November 2016, the European Commission published the ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ documents (EUR-LEX, 2016), setting objectives for (a) energy policy (Annunziata et al., 2013; Kylili et al., 2015; Weißenberger et al., 2014; Cellura et al., 2015; Kurnitski et al., 2011), (b) use of renewable resources (Bonomo et al., 2015; Ferreira et al., 2016; Dabaieh et al.; 2016;), (c) energy efficiency measures and targets (Ferrara et al., 2014; Ascione et al., 2017)), and d) market design initiatives (Marszal et al; 2011; Panão et al., 2013; Ferrari et al., 2017). The released package includes the proposal on the revised Energy Performance Building Directive (EPBD) and relevant articles of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) (article 4 is moved to EPBD). The Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) compels Membetr States to submit their National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAP) every three years, including energy efficiency strategies to achieve major energy savings in buildings. Specifically, in the case of building renovations, the directive encourages Member States to “establish a long-term strategy for mobilising investment in the renovation of the national stock of residential and commercial buildings, both public and private”.

EPBD proposal sets renovation targets and minimum performance requirements for existing and new buildings (EUR-LEX, 2010) including for the first time the Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (nZEB) concept, which is defined as: “nZEB is a building that has very high energy performance, determined in accordance with Annex 1 of the EPBD. The nearly zero or very low energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, produced on site or near-by” (SMD, 2014). It also defines the “cost-optimal level” as the energy performance level which leads to the lowest cost during the estimated economic lifecycle. Figure 1 shows the average cost for deep, medium and light energy renovation of building across different countries in Europe. As it may be observed, Spain registers on the highest average cost in European residential sector, corresponding to 362.19€/m2 (Zebra Project, 2016).

Figure 1.

Average cost of renovation by level in residential per m2 (Zebra Project, 2016)


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