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Environment

Zero-energy condos spring up across Japan

Highly efficient homes use only as much energy as they generate

A concept drawing of a condo building Daikyo is constructing in Hyogo Prefecture, with solar panels covering most of the roof. (Photo by Shuntaro Fukutomi)

TOKYO -- About 1,500 so-called zero-energy apartments are slated for construction in Japan by 2021, as developers expand the advanced building concept beyond detached homes.

Zero-energy homes -- sometimes referred to as zero net energy homes -- consume roughly as much energy as they generate through solar panels and other renewable energy sources.

The government wants at least half of Japan's new detached homes to be zero-energy by 2020. The trend is now spreading into other types of housing after it adapted the standards to multifamily dwellings like condos in May.

Nomura Real Estate Development plans two or three condo projects spanning a total of about 100 residential units, mainly in greater Tokyo. Mitsubishi Estate expects to build a large development in Chiba Prefecture, just outside the capital.

Daikyo is building a mid-rise condo building in Hyogo Prefecture near Osaka that maximizes the amount of solar panels on its roof. Net energy consumption there will be 80% less than comparable condos without the zero-energy feature.

Equipped with highly insulated windows and walls, zero-energy homes are pricier than regular homes. But households could potentially slash annual utility expenses by more than 100,000 yen ($900). The added value of the zero-energy system would also prop up the resale value and, in some cases, offset the higher initial purchase price.

Households accounted for 16% of Japan's carbon emissions in fiscal 2016. Reducing emissions from homes is essential for the country to achieve its target under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

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