Energy Efficient Buildings

Energy Efficient Buildings


All modern homes should strive towards an environmentally sustained system because eventually, it means that we take care of the planet we inhabit. Becoming environmentally conscious is advantageous to us and when building a new home or buying one, it makes sense to check if the building is really energy efficient. Apart from reducing the wastage of scarce natural resources, the long term economic gains with respect to bills and payments will also work to your advantage.

So what makes a building energy efficient? The primary concern is the kind of construction material used from inception to completion of a project, which includes the embodied energy and the life cycle assessment of raw materials. Secondly, the amount of energy a building uses in terms of lighting, cooling and heating, which are essential for comfortable living, all work towards creating a sustainable home. In terms of energy used, the second will be more environmentally damaging simply because it is a recurring phenomenon for the lifespan of the building.

The Construction Material Used

Energy efficient buildings use materials with low embodied energy, which is the total energy used for production, transportation, construction and dismantling of a product. For example, the further the construction material needs to be transported, the higher is the embodied energy. Therefore energy efficient buildings try and use materials which can be procured locally or reuse part of old buildings so that they reduce the consumption of new materials.

Builders will also have to assess the impact of the material they use at its origin. A method to recognize this impact is the life cycle assessment, which measures the environmental impact of a certain raw material or a whole house with respect to its total lifespan. In simple terms, an architect designing an energy efficient building will ask if using a particular kind of construction material is adversely affecting or destroying a natural system or habitat elsewhere.

Other simple methods employed are using timber from sustainable forests, minimizing waste, increasing the lifespan of a building and using a mix of heavyweight construction materials such as bricks, concrete, tiles etc. (higher embodied energy) and lightweight materials such as plywood, light gauge steel and fiber cement (lower embodied energy).

Energy Use in Buildings

Apart from structural efficiency, the basis of an energy efficient building is that it should keep its occupants warm in winter and cool in summer without consuming large quantities of coal and gas, which are non-renewable resources. Well designed buildings conserve energy by using passive heating and cooling techniques.

Passive heating is a method where interiors can be kept warm with a minimum use of electric or gas heaters. This is done by obtaining heat from sunlight and warm air outside; using well-designed windows with double or triple glazing; insulation; building material with high thermal mass, which absorbs heat and releases it slowly and, most importantly, keeping in mind building orientation. Similarly, homes can be kept cool using passive cooling, which includes adding shades over windows and growing deciduous trees around structures.

In addition, solar water heaters, photovoltaic cells to illuminate the building at night, and subterranean tunnels for circulating cool subterranean air are common design features found in energy efficient structures.

With respect to lighting, specially designed skylights, incandescent bulbs and sensors that detect ambient light and turn off artificial illumination automatically, all add up to reduce the ecological footprint of a building.

An energy efficient building is a complex system incorporating both traditional and cutting edge technology. Although more expensive initially, the design philosophy is based on long term savings, both ecological and economic. These buildings are ultimately a part of the larger picture, which covers the important aspect of ecologically sustainable development.

Looking for an environmental consultant that can help you make your building more energy efficient? Contact Frys Energywise today for any enquiries!


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