The net-zero emissions building (nZEB) performance is investigated for building operation (EO) and embodied emissions in materials (EE) for Norway's cold climate. nZEB concepts for new residential and office buildings are conceived in order to understand the balance and implications between operational and embodied emissions over the building's life. The main drivers for the CO2 equivalent (CO2e) emissions are revealed for both building concepts through a detailed emissions calculation. The influence of the CO2e factor for electricity is emphasized and it is shown to have significant impact on the temporal evolution of the overall CO2e emissions balance. The results show that the criterion for zero emissions in operation is easily reached for both nZEB concepts (independent of the CO2e factor considered). Embodied emissions are significant compared to operational emissions. It was found that an overall emissions balance including both operational and embodied energy is difficult to reach and would be unobtainable in a scenario of low carbon electricity from the grid. In this particular scenario, the net balance of emissions alone is nonetheless not a sufficient performance indicator for nZEB.