Vasakronan Nearly Zero Energy Buildings, Sweden

Conversion of an existing, wholly conventional commercial building to near zero energy consumption plus a new building.

Total project cost: EUR 473 million; EIB loan: up to EUR 200 million.

If a survey were to be carried out which asked people whether it would be possible to make their home a Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB), the commonest response might be “not without knocking it down and starting again”. However, the same sample of people would probably also say that a commercial real estate company would only spend money if they were going to make more money in return. Only one of these statements is correct: the second one. This project in Sweden is being implemented by one of the country’s largest commercial property developer/operators, owned by Swedish pension funds. The funds may be state-owned, but the company has to operate on a commercial basis to meet its shareholders’ pension obligations. The company also has a successful track record in the area of energy and the environment, having reduced its carbon emissions by 95% since 2006 and having 80% of its portfolio LEED[1]-certified.

The project has two components. One does indeed involve pulling down an old building and starting again. However, the other involves retaining around 80% of the structure and extending it by 25%. Both developments rely on the district heating and cooling systems of their respective cities: Stockholm and Göteborg. They also have other features in common: high-performance heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, high-performance insulation, LED lighting, building and energy management systems, integrated photovoltaic panels, etc. In fact, although the new building can take advantage of slightly higher levels of insulation and a geothermal energy storage heat pump system, both buildings qualify as NZEB’s and will be classified as LEED platinum, the highest standard. One of the few areas where the new building can show an advantage is that by starting with a clean sheet it has been possible to integrate charging facilities for electric cars, and set aside 800 square metres for bicycle parking.

Energy efficiency is a core component of EU decarbonisation strategy and requires sustained investment in buildings. Buildings represent around 40% of the overall energy consumption and are widely considered the largest untapped sector for energy efficiency investments. These two projects are exemplars of what commercial, profit-oriented developments can achieve, even if part of the project involves existing physical structures. As such they rate highly in terms of the EU’s primary objectives of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the cross-cutting objective of climate action and fully justify the use of EIB resources in their development and implementation.

[1] Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design