Net zero energy barns for industrial egg production: An effective sustainable intensification strategy?

Yang Li*, Karen Allacker, Haibo Feng, Mohammad Davoud Heidari, Nathan Pelletier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


Net zero energy buildings (NZEBs) are energy efficient buildings that incorporate renewable energy generation systems so as to produce sufficient renewable energy to at least offset the total amount of non-renewable energy used by the building on an annual basis. NZEB technologies have widespread commercial and residential application, but their feasibility and efficacy in the livestock sector in support of sustainable intensification have received little attention. This study quantifies the potential for such technologies to improve sustainability outcomes in the livestock sector based on an ISO 14044-compliant life cycle assessment of a pilot net zero energy laying hen facility in Alberta, Canada compared to a conventional facility. It was found that direct energy inputs account for 6.47% and 31.64% of the life cycle cumulative energy use of egg production in NZE and non-NZE hen housing, respectively. Average infrastructure-related contributions to the life cycle impacts of egg production are only 4.34% and 1.94% for the NZE and non-NZE barns, but NZE technologies reduce the net impacts of egg production by 0.89–64.82%. The environmental impact payback time for the NZE barn (30-year lifespan) ranges from 1.38 to 20.66 years, considering the largely fossil fuel-based electricity grid in Alberta, which indicates that non-trivial environmental benefits would accrue across impact categories considered. However, this could vary considerably elsewhere depending on the types and amounts of green energy utilized in regional grid mixes. The type and availability of renewable energy resources that are integrated into NZE barns will similarly be important in determining the potential of such technologies to support sustainable intensification in this sector.

Original languageEnglish
Article number128014
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date25 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


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