NeroZero lab: cooperation to make living more healthy, sustainable, and energy-efficient

4 min reading time

Demonstrating sustainable solutions in the buildingindustry. To this end, businesses, TKI (Top Consortium for Knowledge and Innovation) Urban Energy, and TNO are cooperating in the NeroZero lab. This sustainable demonstration home at Heerhugowaard will open to the public on 8 March 2018. The aim is to show what will be possible in the very near future. “We are demonstrating a range of new developments, such as a novel ventilation method, heat recovery systems and heat pumps.”

To cut CO2 emissions, the use of natural gas in Dutch households will be completely eliminated by 2050. By then all homes and offices will have switched to electrical central heating, biogas or district heating systems and cooking will be done electrically. At present, an average Dutch family consumes 45 Gigajoules of energy per year for heating and hot water. This is almost entirely from fossil sources. The homes of the future will use less energy, and their reduced energy demands will be generated entirely sustainable.

Energy positive buildings

Huub Keizers is the manager of TNO’s Energy in the Built Environment programme. He is convinced that energy-positive buildings are possible. “In the NeroZero lab, we will show that technologies really work, both in terms of energy performance and a healthy indoor environment. At systems level, we will demonstrate a range of new developments, such as a novel ventilation method, heat recovery, and heat pumps. At the level of entire buildings, we are proving that these systems also work in everyday practice. This is why we are cooperating with companies such as Koppen Bouwexperts, Timpaan (a developer), UniFan and Verosol. And at district level, we will show that new systems not only look good, they also fit in with the energy system and can, ultimately, be scaled up.”

“What sets the NeroZero lab apart from the rest is its combination of scientific research and testing in everyday situations”

New type of extractor hood

One example of cooperation is the VentKook TKI project. “Cooking generates a lot of particulate matter, and this can’t escape from the house” says Willem Koppen, of Koppen Bouwexperts. “This is because homes are becoming increasingly airtight, while the available kitchen air extraction systems is not sufficiently effective. As part of this joint venture, we asked ATAG to create a new type of extractor hood, capable of extracting 300 m3 of air per hour (in compliance with TNO’s calculations). However, it turned out that the standard domestic ventilation duct system lacked the capacity to handle such volumes. With this in mind, we are going to build a wider system with, in essence, just two bends. We pinpoint any problems by taking expert measurements, by adopting a pragmatic approach, and by using common sense to uncover the facts, on site. This is also why we set up NeroZero – to achieve as much as possible with as little as possible.”

Fresh air

Another example is ventilation. Mr Koppen explains that “My goal is a ventilation system that works naturally whenever possible, and mechanically only where absolutely necessary. One manufacturer came up with the idea of mixing air above the interior doors. That involves using the stairwell as a supply air duct, while a fan installed above the interior door forces the air into the room in question. We can use the NeroZero lab’s facilities to implement and test this system. We also cooperate with VELUX. This includes mounting skylights that are designed to fit exactly between the PV panels. These units are triple-glazed, and those above the stairwell have a built-in heat shield. During the day, the light shines in the direction you are walking and, as the skylight partially opens, fresh air flows into the house.”

“We have the people and resources to show what is possible. This includes mathematical models, 3D simulations of air flows, and expertise in limiting overheating by exposure to the sun”

Spotlighting residents’ needs

“The question, of course, is how much do these sustainable innovations cost?” Willem Koppen adds. “Well, if we allow for mass production and use ‘normal’ revenue models and processes, then the additional costs are quite manageable. In some cases, the costs involved might even be lower than before. More importantly, however, these buildings will perform better and the residents’ needs – of which they themselves may have been unaware – are spotlighted. Our motto is ‘We want to make healthy, sustainable and energy-efficient homes accessible to everyone’. And health comes first.”

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Buildings designed with health in mind

TKI Urban Energy supports the NeroZero lab team. The goal of TKI Urban Energy is to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, reliable and affordable energy system. Programme Director, Lianda Sjerps-Koomen, points out that “Enjoying life in buildings designed with health in mind is essential now and during the energy transition. How hard can it be to deliver clean air at the right temperature? Quite tricky, as it turns out. Previous research carried out as part of our programme showed that our indoor air is not always as fresh as we might like. We can improve this situation while, at the same time, being much more sustainable in terms of our energy consumption. In the NeroZero lab, companies and members of the public can see with their own eyes how we do this.”

Testing ground

The NeroZero lab is a testing ground for dozens of projects. In each project, the participants create tailor-made cooperation. Ms Sjerps-Koomen explains that “This is the common thread running through the entire energy transition, the gradual co-adaptation of equipment, buildings and people. In that sense, the old energy world was much clearer. What sets this project apart from the rest is its combination of scientific research and testing in everyday situations.”

“We want to make healthy, sustainable and energy-efficient homes accessible to everyone”

Pushing ahead

Mr Keizers concludes by saying “I would like to hear from companies that are trying to cope with these new developments or those that that lack specific technological know-how. We have the people and resources to show what is feasible. This includes for example mathematical models, 3D simulations of air flows, and expertise in limiting overheating by exposure to the sun. We are also keen to hear from the people who will be moving into these new-build houses. It is they who will ask the questions that inspire us to push ahead, together with our partners.”

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