The Emergence of Energy-positive Buildings: A Catalyst for the New Urban Economy

The Emergence of Energy-positive Buildings: A Catalyst for the New Urban Economy

In the shadows of the current energy landscape, a transformative trend is discernible—energy-positive buildings (EPBs) are moving from rarities to the avant-garde of urban architectural design. These structures are not only self-sufficient but generate surplus energy, creating a ripple effect with potential industrial disruptions. This trend alert delves into the emerging trajectory of EPBs, spotlighting the nascent innovations and their far-reaching implications.

29 February 2024
Tags: energy


Recent shifts in the geopolitical and energy sectors—ranging from gas supply uncertainties to retiring traditional power plants—are creating a fertile ground for the rise of EPBs. This novel architectural paradigm is shifting the focus from energy-efficient buildings to structures that become net energy producers. The convergence of technology, policy, and economic drivers is setting the stage for EPBs to play a pivotal role in the future's urban infrastructure.

What's Changing?

The world of infrastructure is currently witnessing the convergence of several key developments:

  • The impending availability of areas previously dependent on natural gas and other fossil fuels is driving interest in alternative energy sources.

  • In India, a country poised for urban transformation, there's a $700 billion investment forecast for low-carbon, climate-resilient urban infrastructure between 2021 and 2031. 

  • The energy industry is witnessing a substantial retirement of coal and natural gas-fired power plants in the United States.

  • Globally, there is an intensified race to leverage green hydrogen as part of a clean energy solution, despite its complexities.

  • Increased attention on renewable energy technology transfer from lab research to real-world application.

Collectively, these developments are coalescing into a strong undercurrent for the rise of EPBs.

Why is this Important?

EPBs are poised on the brink of revolutionizing our built environment for several reasons:

  • EPBs address the urgent need for energy resilience amid volatile fossil fuel markets and intensifying climate change effects, signaling a shift toward more sustainable urban developments.

  • The energy surplus generated by EPBs can be redirected into the grid, contributing to energy security, and potentially reducing reliance on external energy imports.

  • These buildings position themselves as a novel asset class in real estate, embodying sustainability while also offering a tangible return on investment through energy production.

  • Their rise may stimulate advancements in associated technologies, such as energy storage and smart grid systems, signalling a nascent market opportunity for innovation.


The ascendancy of EPBs presents several implications across various sectors:

  • Real Estate and Development: The standard for high-value properties may shift increasingly towards EPB certifications, leading to a redesign of construction practices and a rise in corporate investments in sustainable infrastructure.

  • Energy Sector: Utility companies must adapt to a changing landscape where urban buildings transform from energy consumers to producers, potentially disrupting traditional energy business models.

  • Policy and Regulation: With the proliferation of EPBs, governments may need to establish new regulations and incentives to promote and manage energy distribution from these decentralized sources.

  • Technology Companies: A demand surge for innovative building materials, efficient energy management systems, and renewable energy technologies will offer lucrative opportunities for tech companies.

  • Environmental Impact: EPBs play a significant role in reducing urban carbon footprints, bolstering efforts to combat climate change and promote environmental sustainability.


To harness the potential of EPBs, strategic planners should consider the following questions:

  • How might utilities redesign their business models to incorporate the surplus energy generated by EPBs?

  • What kind of policies and incentives are necessary to accelerate the adoption of EPBs?

  • Which technological innovations can further enhance the efficiency and viability of EPBs?

  • In what ways can the real estate market capitalize on the value proposition offered by EPBs?

  • How can institutions foster collaboration among urban planners, technologists, and policymakers to ensure the seamless integration of EPBs into the urban landscape?


Energy-positive buildings are emerging as a critical component of the urban fabric, laying the groundwork for a future where self-sustained and energy-generative architectures are the norm. With the right confluence of policy support, technological innovation, and market forces, EPBs could herald a new epoch in energy and urban planning, characterized by a greater emphasis on sustainability and resilience.


Sources referenced in this trend alert: