Comparative review of international approaches to net-zero buildings: Knowledge-sharing initiative to develop design strategies for greenhouse gas emissions reduction

Daniel Satola, Aoife Houlihan Wiberg, Manan Singh, Sushanth Babu, Ben James, Manish Dixit, Ryan Sharston, Yann Grynberg, Arild Gustavsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (SciVal)


The concept of net-zero, climate-neutral buildings is attracting global attention, and it is widely recognised as a key solution for achieving climate neutrality targets in the construction sector. However, an increasing and confusing abundance of differing labels, definitions, and approaches is increasing worldwide. This article aims to chart the current progress of national net-zero building pathways and identify gaps and challenges that present a significant barrier to industry uptake and decarbonisation of the built environment worldwide. The national net-zero pathways include an analysis of building legislation, policy and voluntary frameworks in four selected countries, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States and Singapore, which are all leading regional actors in the race to zero and achieving a climate-neutral construction sector. Firstly, the study provides an overview of each country-specific context and motivation related to climate change adaptation and mitigation in the construction sector. Secondly, a review of the essential features from market-leading net-zero definitions, methodologies, schemes, and tools describing specific building approaches is conducted in each investigated country. Finally, based on the selected net-zero building case studies, the article presents the most promising design strategies for both embodied and operational environmental impact reductions, considering each specific climatic and country context. The research results indicated that the system boundaries for embodied and operational indicators (energy or GHG emissions) presented in investigated net-zero frameworks vary significantly. Consequently, there is an urgent need for a harmonised and transparent standardisation to provide coherence through performed life cycle assessments of buildings. In terms of the design strategies for achieving net-zero ambition according to the investigated frameworks, the common approach is the integration of the passive and active design strategies for operational energy or GHG emission reduction. However, it is evident that in some net-zero building examples, the consideration of the embodied environmental impacts and potential reduction strategies is missing because of not being included and mandatory in the national net-zero framework. This work is built upon the current body of knowledge on existing net-zero building frameworks and already constructed buildings and provides practical indications for building policy development and environmental impact reduction strategies in future climate-neutral, net-zero building projects.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)291-306
Number of pages16
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding text
Daniel Satola and Arild Gustavsen gratefully acknowledge the support from the Research Council of Norway and several partners through the Research Centre on Zero Emission Neighbourhoods in Smart Cities (FME ZEN). Aoife Houlihan Wiberg gratefully acknowledges the support from The Belfast School of Architecture and the Built Environment at Ulster University , UK.


  • Buildings
  • Net-zero
  • GHG emissions
  • Design strategies
  • Building policy
  • Resilience

Cite this