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By Dr Kate O’Sullivan, Research Associate

The Nordic Zero Emission and Plus Energy Buildings (ZEB) 2019 conference is the first of a bi-annual series of conferences focusing on zero-carbon and positive carbon buildings.

The conference is hosted in partnership with academia, industry and civic governance institutions. This year it was hosted by the Research Centre on Zero Emission Neighbourhoods in Smart Cities (ZEN), the Norwegian Research Council and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

The ZEN Research Centre has facilitated the creation of two living labs in Evenstad and Steinkjer and a zero-carbon office building in Trondheim.

The Living Labs have been used to research user energy practices and barriers against zero emission innovation that are often not visible. The centre plans a further seven pilot projects all over Norway, which will include public buildings such as education facilities, and private buildings such as homes at community and neighbourhood scale.

Knowledge around energy efficient buildings

As a Research Associate for the Active Building Centre I am exploring the experiences of occupants of low carbon Active Buildings.

The conference enabled delegates to share experiences and knowledge around energy-efficient buildings from mixed perspectives and ontologies. It was a showcase of existing research and development projects located in mostly Nordic countries.

Points of convergence and divergence between different academic disciplines, policy and industry were highlighted.

Speakers included academics from architecture, engineering, social science, psychology and geography. Municipalities policy-makers and energy providers. Housing developers, landlords, energy industry and digital technology industry.

Such a mix of stakeholders provided an excellent basis for the discussions on existing and planned developments and areas of good practice. In addition to areas for improvement and change for example around buildings energy efficiency models, assumptions of buildings users practices, embodied carbon in construction, waste and regulation.

Understanding active buildings

Attending the conference provided a timely opportunity to gain contemporary understandings of Active Buildings at an international scale.

This includes how Active Buildings are characterised, the types of technologies used and why, existing/proposed modes of Active Buildings and energy production/selling/consumption governance arrangements.

An opportunity to consider the emerging ambition to scale-up such individual or small-scale developments into neighbourhoods.

Active building research

The conference provided opportunity to understand how people are currently living within existing buildings. To understand how the technology is accessed in these buildings.

To understand how this may shape household energy practices in expected and unexpected ways. This includes those which contradict the building energy consumption and efficiency models.

These insights help to elucidate existing knowledge bases and existing research gaps. This allows us to strengthen the position of the Active Building Centre research and reinforce the value of our research on an international stage.

Importantly, this makes our work visible to our international academic and industrial colleagues.

I met delegates from other research institutes which will enable further mutual knowledge sharing and collaboration.