Building and Designing Energy Efficient Structures - Los Angeles Post-ExaminerLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Building and Designing Energy Efficient Structures

With a massive increase in the Earth’s population and with natural resources growing scarce each day, architects and engineers have come up with several ways to help society improve on the way they handle issues like energy consumption and also the use of building materials. Energy-efficient buildings are the new way to go. Their design will lower energy bills and also help reduce your carbon footprint, which is directly linked to the health of the environment you live in.

How To Start Building An Energy Efficient Structure?

Energy-efficient buildings can be both new and renovated structures. The basic idea behind this concept is to use a series of tricks that do not involve additional equipment for cooling or heating up a household or any other type of setting.

There are three basic ways to improve your energy consumption rate:

  • The first is bioclimatic architecture, which involves shaping and orienting your building in such a way that it receives natural heating or cooling. In addition, you can also incorporate passive solar systems and solar protection depending on your needs.
  • The second choice, which is called high performing building envelope, implies a proper insulation method combined with top-end windows and glazing. The construction will also have to become air-sealed and avoid thermal bridges.
  • The third option is called high-performance controlled ventilation and it refers to mechanical insulation and heat recovery.

If these three steps are finalized you can start thinking about detailed modifications like renewable energy sources, cooling and heating equipment, and other similar possibilities. The whole process can be referred to as the Trias Energetica Concept, which represents a 5 stage approach that will considerably improve the way you live your life.

The Trias Energetica Five-Step Concept

Step 1 – Bioclimatic Architecture

This first step will require you to make a thorough analysis of the environment and local weather conditions that will affect your building. The two aspects you need to consider seriously are visual and thermal indoor comfort. Find out if you can benefit off of solar energy or any other natural resource. Try as much as possible to include and use as much of your surroundings as you can. Solar energy does not require a large south-facing roof any longer. There are now shared solar farms where you can share an array with other like-minded individuals and the entire array can be built and managed remotely. The investment has the same compelling economics as environmental impact to the consumer but not the burden of having the solar equipment on their property.

We got a chance to speak with Richard Hogan (retired Merrill Lynch Wealth Advisor & Active Environmental Philanthropist) about an exciting build-to-suit project that uses geothermal heating, cooling, and hot water. In addition, the project will be powered by solar electricity, making it completely renewable, with a zero-carbon footprint. In addition, the owner will have recovered 100% of the investment costs within 8 years at which point the system will be owned and operated free and clear.

There are two principles, which guide bioclimatic design:

  1. Your building must be in as little contact with the exterior as possible. The openings, which are doors and windows, should be oriented properly – experts say orienting them towards the South is the best way to go – and the interior design should meet your heating needs.
  2. The second principle refers to the way the external envelope is managed. You will need to protect the entire structure from solar heat, which is only good if properly harvested. You can use it to heat your home by collecting radiation, which will give you both light and warmth. Consider reflective surfaces and colors to deflect sun rays.

Step 2 – Thermal Insulation

This second step is a great money saver. It is not only cheap and very easy to come by, but it also represents a great way to save energy. You will reduce emissions almost instantly, and you will also be certain the building envelope is completely energy-efficient no matter the place you check.  Thermal insulation works great for both cold and hot locations, and it helps you lower energy loss when it comes to technical installations. This step is the cheapest and most efficient because it can be used all around the year.

You know a wall has great insulation when its R-value is high. The R-value represents the wall’s thermal resistance, which prevents heat from leaking outside. Make sure the thermal resistance is as high as possible.

Make sure you get the latest in terms of insulation. Over the years, the thickness of the materials used to insulate buildings has been constantly decreasing in order to make the changes as minimal as possible. Saint-Gobain Isover manages to come up with materials that provide great thermal conductivity and increased thermal resistance while using thin sheets of insulation.

Step 3 – Air Tightness

This step comes hand in hand with step 2. What you need to do is reduce the unwanted air exchange between the inside of your home and the outdoors. Find the weak spots and reduce infiltration. Control the draughts as much as possible and create more efficient and comfortable indoor environments that require less heat. You can also prolong the life of your building if you manage to properly reduce air leakage.

Saint-Gobain Isover is again the name to look for. Their insulation allows your home to keep the necessary moisture levels while providing excellent airtightness. Their systems, especially the Vario, will keep your home draught-free.

If you have the opportunity to build your own home, make sure this issue is on top of the list. It is a lot harder to fix this problem if the structure is already finalized. Carefully look for gaps and make sure air does not flow through unwanted spaces.

Step 4 – Air Leakages

Air exchange between the indoors and the outdoors can have several unwanted consequences. Condensation is one of the biggest problems homeowners have to deal with. Because of air infiltration, warm air leaves your house and gets replaced with cold air, which leads to increased humidity. You will also have to make an effort to keep your home warm, which will cost you more money. The CO2 emissions are also increased because of the overuse of your installations. In some situations, the leakages are so massive that heating becomes an issue during the cold season. The damp conditions caused by the difference in temperature will damage the entire structure of your home resulting in poor insulation and increased repair costs.

Step 5 -Ventilation

This is the last step you need to consider when building an energy-efficient structure. Ventilation is what keeps things in balance. Insulation is not enough to maintain a soothing environment to live in. You will need to naturally air your building in order to prevent mold and fungi from growing due to extreme moisture. Keep in mind that windows are not designed for ventilation purposes.

Conclusion 

These five steps are what you need in order to put together a properly structured building. If you consider each and every one of these pointers, you will create an energy-efficient environment that will save you a lot of money with time. Even if being more meticulous may take a bit more time, you will realize it is definitely worth it in the long run.


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