Demonstration projects of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings: Lessons from end-user experiences in Amsterdam, Helsingborg, and Lyon

N.M. van der Grijp, K.F. van der Woerd, B. Gaiddon, R.M. Hummelshøj, M. Larsson, O. Osunmuyiwa, R. Rooth

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Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEBs) have been positioned as a low carbon strategy by the European Union in its Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings (Directive 2010/31/EU). Underlying this directive is that the choice of technical options as well as sources of renewable energy may vary across EU countries and building projects. This article aims to compare the outcomes of NZEB demonstration projects in newly built city districts in Amsterdam, Helsingborg, and Lyon, using insights from strategic niche management theory combined with post-occupancy evaluation. More specifically, the analysis focuses on end-user expectations and experiences with living in energy-neutral city districts and homes, identifying lessons learned. A major conclusion is that the NZEB demonstration projects only facilitated single loop learning of end-users but did not provide an impetus for double loop learning. The findings suggest that NZEB projects need to be redesigned to facilitate more active roles of end-users in order to help realising their full potential in terms of increased energy efficiency and social learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-15
Number of pages6
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Early online date12 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


To address this research question, a case study approach was chosen, focusing on three NZEB demonstration projects in the cities of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Helsingborg (Sweden), and Lyon (France), which were funded by the European Commission in the context of the NEXT-Buildings project. None of these locations had been investigated before in terms of end-user expectations and experiences. The article is based on research in the context of the NEXT-Buildings project which received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 284533 . NEXT-Buildings is the acronym for NEXT Zero Energy Buildings at lowest Cost by using Competitive Sustainable Technology.

FundersFunder number
Helsingborg (Sweden)
Seventh Framework Programme284533
European Commission


    • Nearly Zero Energy Buildings
    • Strategic niche management
    • Post-occupancy evaluation
    • Inclusive governance
    • Social learning
    • End-user empowerment

    VU Research Profile

    • Science for Sustainability


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