An energy-efficient building design makes a lasting sustainability contribution. Such a design uses eco-friendly materials, construction methods, resource management, and energy-efficient technologies to create a high-performance structure with a low environmental impact.
Consequently, energy-efficient building designs help building users lower their energy costs, leading to more profit. They also provide improved comfort and a more productive work environment.
Energy-efficient building designs are an important step in the fight against climate change. These green buildings contribute to sustainability by lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing pollution and the reliance on coal-fueled power plants, etc.
Energy-efficient building designs prove that economic growth goes hand in hand with sustainability. Read below to learn more about energy-efficient building design and its contribution to environmental sustainability efforts.
What Are Energy Efficient Buildings
Energy-efficient buildings are structures that have been designed using methods, materials, and resources that reduce energy use. They can be residential, commercial, or industrial buildings utilizing technology to lower the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling, ventilation, lighting, production, and other operations.
Moreover, energy-efficient buildings also contribute to sustainability efforts. Aside from reducing energy costs, green buildings have a lower carbon footprint. They harness renewable energy sources to lessen their dependence on coal-fueled power plants, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Green buildings use energy-efficient building design in the selection of construction materials. This method is more eco-friendly since it saves energy and natural resources, resulting in minimal environmental effects without compromising quality. The list below shows the benefits and advantages that energy-efficient buildings can bring to your business, the economy, and the environment.
The Benefits of Energy Efficient Buildings
Lower Energy Consumption
With energy efficiency in mind, green buildings can significantly lower your energy consumption. For instance, modular construction, which prefabricates building parts off-site, is considered environmentally friendly. Accordingly, it can reduce the total energy used by 50% compared with on-site construction.
Furthermore, installing energy-efficient appliances, fixtures, and equipment cuts energy use. Here are some of the potential energy savings with higher-efficiency products:
- LED lights use 90% less energy than legacy technology
- Office equipment can lead to 41% energy savings
- Cooking appliances can lead to 24% energy savings
Energy savings translate to lower costs. As energy prices continue to rise, many owners are now looking at the benefits of energy-efficient buildings. According to experts, modular construction allows builders to save as much as 10% to 14% on total costs.
In addition, an energy-efficient building also lowers operating expense significantly. Here are some of the potential savings you can enjoy when you use ENERGY STAR-certified appliances and equipment:
- Heating and cooling systems can save more than $2,000 over the product’s lifespan
- LED light fixtures can save you up to $249, including LED discounts and rebates
Comfort & Productivity
Energy-efficient building designs provide better ventilation and cleaner air, leading to less indoor pollution. As a result, green buildings offer more comfortable living conditions. The use of natural lighting and setting climate-responsive indoor temperature also increases labor productivity in commercial buildings.
Moreover, data shows that energy-efficient buildings have direct and indirect health benefits. As green buildings improve air quality, they reduce risks related to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Good for the environment
Ultimately, the end goal of energy-efficient buildings is to help the environment. As we reduce energy use, we also curb fossil fuel burning – the biggest contributor to the greenhouse effect. By utilizing renewable energy sources, energy-efficient buildings significantly cut down their greenhouse gas emissions.
Data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that sustainable electricity generation and energy-efficiency measures have helped decrease greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector by 21% over the period of 1990 until 2020.
Our Buildings Today
According to 2018 data, the buildings and construction sector accounted for about 36% of the energy consumption and about 39% of carbon emissions globally.
Many developed and highly-developed nations have made environmental sustainability a priority. South Africa, France, the UK, and many other countries have adopted government policies and actions to ensure the efficient use of energy.
Data from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) 2022 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard ranked countries according to their energy-saving measures. We list the top performers below, according to the building category.
|Country||Energy-Efficiency Measures Implemented (Building Category)|
|South Africa||Ranked one of the best in its building energy efficiency policiesStringent residential and commercial energy codes|
|Netherlands||Has comprehensive and mandatory commercial and residential building codesMandatory disclosure of energy use for residential and commercial buildingsHas mandatory energy performance standards (MEPS) covering 42 appliance groups|
|France||The country’s Energy Efficiency Action Plan aims to increase the number of low-energy buildings and convert over 500,000 households into energy-efficient dwellings.Has set a national sustainability goal to lower greenhouse emissions by 37% below 2005 levels by 2030|
|Spain||Has technical and stringent energy building codesMandatory disclosure and labeling of energy use for residential and commercial buildings|
|China||Strict mandatory energy codes for residential and commercial buildings that extend to rural areas|
|The United Kingdom||Has a comprehensive energy labeling program for residential and commercial buildings|
|The United States||Most states offer resources and training on building codes Has mandatory appliance and equipment standards for more than 50 categoriesHas building codes for the redeveloping of residential and commercial buildings|
|Australia||Mixed of voluntary and mandatory rules in commercial building codes|
Ensuring Energy Efficient Building Design
Driven by economic growth, there is increasing demand for services – such as refrigeration, cooling, heating, lighting – provided by energy. However, by considering energy consumption in all aspects of building design, its possible to deliver these services whilst using less energy.
When this is done – taking into account energy use in the manufacture of building products, in the construction of the building, in its operation, and ultimately through to its end of life and demolition – the design of a building could be considered to be energy efficient – from crade to grave. Constructing new buildings and upgrading or refurbishing existing buildings uses a massive amount of energy. An energy-efficient building design utilizes passive and active design principles, construction methods, materials, and technologies to create high-performance buildings with low energy use.
Is the effort worth it? Certainly! Buildings are long-lived structures, so energy efficient building design provides long term benefit, benefit that over time adds up to a significant sustainability contribution. If you want to learn more about energy-efficient buildings, you may want to enroll in our Building Physics Basics course.