First German Government Zero-Energy “House 2019”

Congratulations to the German Federal Environment Agency. The just moved into their new zero energy “House 2019” building, the first such building for the Federal Government (press release in English).

Here is a Youtube video with some computer simulations (in German).

This is called “House 2019” because under Directive 2010/31 governments of EU Member States are required to make sure that all new buildings are “nearly zero-energy” from January 2021 on, and all buildings occupied by public authorities achieve that standard by January 2019 (Article 9).

The definition of “nearly zero-energy” in Article 2 says:

‘nearly zero-energy building’ means a building that has a very high energy performance, as determined in accordance with Annex I. The nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby;

This new building already meets the standards that become binding by 2019. As the first such building it is an important reference case and helps to spread the word about these concepts.

All energy needed for this building is derived from photovoltaic panels on the roof, and heating is done with a heat pump. The roof is enlarged artificially to make room for more solar panels, and give some more shade to the front of the building. This was necessary to achieve the goal of zero energy.

In contrast, it was not necessary to use any of the area around this house for extra solar panels. This particular location would have had ample space to do that, but they chose not to rely on that possibility, since they want this project to be a model case for other buildings in the future, and therefore make sure that the roof space is enough.

I’m not convinced by that logic. They should use all available surrounding area as well so as to get to energy positive. They can always explain that the roof alone would be sufficient. Actually it is the other way round. There are many cases where there are extra areas available, and they should have built a model case for the optimal use of such extra areas as well.

While it is left to individual designers of new buildings how they want to get to zero energy, it is obvious that having solar panels on the roof will help a lot with that goal. So this might de facto be a legal requirement to have solar on the roof of all new buildings in the EU from 2020 on, which would be kind of a big deal.

Meanwhile, at the White House they finally started installing some solar panels, but there is no word on how much of the energy requirements of the building those panels will provide. It will be interesting to see how long the Americans take to get their first energy zero building for the Federal Government.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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