Based on two case studies, this paper explores the nexus of exergy, net-zero targets, and sustainable cities as a means of analyzing the role of exergy-aware strategies at the building and district level. The first case study is a premier building in Ankara that is ready to meet the net-zero exergy target. It is also the first building in Turkey to receive the highest Platinum rating in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. A net-zero exergy building (NZEXB) is a building that has an annual sum of net-zero exergy transfer across the building-district boundary. This new target is made possible by lowered annual exergy consumption, (AEXC), and increased on-site production from a bundle of sustainable energy technologies. The modeled results of the building indicate that the reduced AEXC of 60 kW h/m(2) yr is met with on-site production of 62 kW h/m(2) yr. On-site production includes PV and building integrated PV, a micro-wind turbine, combined heat and power, GSHP, and solar collectors. Diversified thermal energy storage tanks further facilitate the exergy supply to meet with the exergy demand. The results of this case study provide key lessons to structure an energy value chain that is more aware of exergy, which are up-scalable to the district level when the bundle of sustainable energy technologies is zoomed out across a larger spatial area. These key lessons are then compared with the second case study of two districts in the south heating network of the city of Stockholm, which was the European Green Capital in 2010. The levels of exergy match in these districts of Stockholm, namely the districts of Hogdalen and Hammarby, is found to be 0.82 and 0.84, respectively. However, there remain several bottlenecks for these districts to reach net-zero targets at the community level. The paper concludes that the NZEXB case study has much to offer as a "building block" to reform the way energy is converted and managed and in this way, to structure an exergy-aware energy value chain for greater sustainability in green cities of the future. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.