Sustainable business model of affordable zero energy houses: Upscaling potentials

Shima Ebrahimigharehbaghi*, Harry van der Heijden, Marja Elsinga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
58 Downloads (Pure)


In 2018, the average number of occupants per dwelling is steadily decreasing, creating a demand for small, affordable housing. According to European Union energy targets, new small homes should be energy efficient. However, data clearly shows that energy efficient homes are mostly unaffordable and there is an urgent need to design and build small affordable zero energy homes. However, a sustainable business model for small affordable zero energy homes has not yet been developed in European countries. The Housing 4.0 Energy project explores the development of affordable zero energy homes in three countries: the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. This study explores the business models and potential for scaling up the five schemes (Ireland operates three schemes in different counties). The results of this study may be useful to practitioners, policy makers, and small families facing the problem of affordable zero energy homes. The Dutch scheme targets a market of self-builders of low-middle income households. In the Flemish scheme, non-profit social rental agencies provide the houses for low-income groups. In Ireland, local authorities provide social housing for applicants on waiting lists. The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is used to analyse the business models for affordable zero energy homes in these countries. Data is collected mainly through interviews and focus group meetings with experts. The results show that all schemes create environmental, social and economic sustainability values for low/low-middle income households by providing energy efficient, comfortable and affordable homes. Several barriers to the upscaling of these homes were identified, such as cultural barriers in design, building materials, as well as legal and technical barriers. The technical barriers can be addressed in a relatively short time, but overcoming cultural and behavioural barriers might be more difficult. Engaging government, market participants, and providers can accelerate the development of these schemes. Examples of different schemes and the courses developed during the project can be used to disseminate the results of the business models of these schemes. Finally, the business models of the schemes can be modified and adopted for the development of affordable zero energy homes in other countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130956
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Affordability
  • Belgium
  • Business model innovation
  • Digital platform
  • Ireland
  • The Netherlands
  • Zero energy housing


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