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Linking transition theory to a multiple case-study to investigate the upscaling potential of net zero energy retrofit concepts for high-rise buildings



Last Updated: 4-2020


To mitigate climate change and reach Dutch and EU policy to be carbon neutral in 2050, it is important to improve the energy efficiency in existing real estate as the built environment is responsible for 16% of the total energy use in The Netherlands. The government, the construction industry, and others are challenged to find innovative net zero energy building (NZEB) solutions to upgrade the highly energy consuming housing stock. The high-rise housing stock remains the biggest challenge. NZEB retrofit concepts have been developed and are being tested on a small scale. These concepts are integral, modular, and product-based systems that improve the energy efficiency to net zero energy on annual basis. The NZEB retrofit industry is still in its infancy and upscaling of these concepts remains very complex. What influences upscaling is investigated by doing case-study research substantiated by two frameworks from the transition studies field. This has led to an analysis of the socio-technical system, which has shown the origin of the upscaling barriers, and an analysis of the innovation-niche to understand the development of the NZEB high-rise retrofit niche. A description of 30 upscaling barriers, barrier solutions, and 7 upscaling drivers were identified through extensive literature review and interviews with industry professionals from the cases. Furthermore, the management quality of the important innovation-niche building processes has been evaluated and improvements have been presented. The results of the analyses are then connected to give an answer to what is thwarting upscaling and what can be done to enhance upscaling by firms active in the industry, in the form of strategic recommendations. In short, recommendations to developing consortia are to form complete networks, set clear and aligned expectations, experiment with small manageable elements, add system integration and modularity to the design criteria, and form new business models and perspectives. Subsequently, an advice is given to policymakers. More experimental space and rule exemptions should be available for NZEB projects. The 70% decision rule for housing associations should be simplified for NZEB project. Update the energy efficiency fee act (in Dutch: EPV wetgeving) and virtual energy balancing rules to be suitable for NZEB high-rise projects can boost upscaling. Furthermore, criticism has been provided on the subsidy policy in the Netherlands. It is stated that subsidy procedures are very complex, and a lack of subsidies is present for these projects.

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