Key findings

The results of ZEBRA2020 are meant to reinforce the investors’ confidence in the market transition and in the long-term perspective of nZEB targets and an attractive policy framework leads to a breakthrough of nZEB and RES-H/C, in particular in the existing building stock. The key results of ZEBRA2020 are as follows:

  1. The online data tools ( provide unique information regarding nZEB market development and nZEB characteristics. New approaches have been developed in order to allow for a better comparability of national data, for instance the major renovation equivalent and the nZEB radar.

The collected data was accessed over 4500 times during the project duration. Further, 15 official commitments from market actors and policy makers show the need for future nZEB market tracking.

  1. The online nZEB tracker (, based on a set of criteria, assesses the nZEB market maturity and visualises the national nZEB markets dynamically. Results on national and EU level can be aggregated. At the EU-level, the tracker shows a substantial gap of market maturity that still has to be closed until 2019/2021. Though market conditions appear to improve throughout the EU, nZEBs are still rare in most EU Member States. Approximately 900 requests from the nZEB-tracker during the project duration show the importance of the topic.
  2. A quantitative comparison of national nZEB definitions is complex due to different system boundaries, calculation methodologies, applied factors etc. However, our analysis indicates that a significant share of nZEB definitions does not meet the intention of the EU directive on energy efficient buildings (EPBD) that the energy consumption should be “nearly zero or very low amount” and the remaining part “should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources”. Thus, a recast EPBD should require clear definitions of terms and thresholds, and gaps should be closed.
  3. Cross-country comparisons of barriers, drivers and best practices, especially for economic aspects, have been made. Typical nZEB features in different climatic zones were investigated. Based on collected data, business as usual and ambitious policy scenarios of the nZEB market transition by 2020, 2030 and 2050 were developed ( Recommendations to accelerate the nZEB market transition are provided for 17 target countries and for the EU level. Policy makers and industry representatives discussed these recommendations in 36 stakeholder workshops.
  4. 908 participants discussed the outcomes of ZEBRA2020 at the stakeholder workshops and 120 national and/or regional policy makers were continuously involved in the project. A final conference with more than 60 participants has been organised. The outcomes have been presented in many conferences and more than 70 articles on ZEBRA2020 have been published.


The above presented results lead to a number of lessons learnt for improving existing building policies:

  1. Even if a broad range of building data is available for most European countries, the absence or difficult accessibility of key data and in particular of non-residential and existing buildings as well as renovation remains an important obstacle. There is a strong need for European harmonisation for solid cross-country comparisons and tracking of the transition to nZEBs. The revised EPBD should include unambiguous, clear definitions of terms and thresholds. Further, it is important to distinguish between new buildings and renovations – despite of a common nZEB definition for both cases.
  2. The EU committed to limit global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius and the related climate targets clearly indicate that CO2-reductions of 80-95% will be required in the building sector by 2050. The ZEBRA2020 scenarios reach CO2-reduction levels of around 80% only in the ambitious cases. An achievement of the 2050 energy and climate goals require policy ambitions, going beyond the assumed actions of the ambitious policy scenarios, which were developed together with policy makers. Immediate action and radical policy innovations are required to reach the energy and climate targets.
  3. Low renovation and system replacement rates and long life time of building components have to be considered in policy development. Buildings constructed now will mostly be standing far beyond 2050. Buildings renovated within the next 10 years will often not be renovated again until 2050 and a considerable part of the heating systems installed in the next 10 years will still be in place in 2050. Thus, an absolute phase out of new fossil heating systems would be required within the next 5-10 years to reach strong decarbonisation levels in 2050.
  4. Given that at least two thirds of today’s buildings will still be standing in 2050 and their vast energy consumption, a long-term vision is necessary to align with the challenges ahead. For instance, natural gas is the most common energy fuel in most of the investigated countries and electricity demand for space cooling is growing especially in the south European countries. Moreover, energy poverty and vulnerable consumers are a European-wide issue and need further attention. Shifting from fuel subsidy to energy efficiency support is required.
  5. In many EU Member States, the reliability and credibility of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) is questioned by all kind of actors in the real estate market. Financial matters (additional costs), low awareness, bureaucracy and issuing unreliable energy performance certificates were the main obstacles reported in our real estate agents’ survey. Transforming EPCs to Building Certificates (“Passes”) for the whole lifetime of a building may increase credibility and serve as a key measure to foster building renovation towards nZEB standard.

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