Heating is the biggest use of energy in a house. That means that generally speaking, the colder the climate, the harder it is going to be to build a zero carbon home. But it should always be possible, and in an age of climate change and rising energy prices, a cold climate is no reason to water down standards.
Proving the point is Princess Elizabeth station, Belgium’s Antarctic research hub. Here’s a building that has to withstand subzero temperatures and icy winds, some of the most extreme conditions of any building on the planet, and it does so with no additional heating.
Built two metres off the ground to keep it clear of snow, and designed to deflect winds around it, Princess Elizabeth is the only zero emissions research station in Antarctica. It has solar panels and a line of wind turbines along the hill, and an integrated waste management system.
For all its science fiction look, it’s actually a wooden building underneath its steel windproofing armour. Wood with felt paneling inside, and a good thick layer of polystyrene insulation. Since it barely leaks any heat, the whole building is warmed by human activity and the waste heat of computing equipment.
If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere.