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Energy Efficiency in Construction
Last modified: 6th Jan 2015
Energy efficiency is something that many of us are now much more concerned about than ever before. Anybody who has built, rented or sold a property in recent years will have been obliged to obtain an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and will be familiar with some of the factors which go towards calculating a property’s rating, such as loft and wall insulation, double glazing, the central heating system and lighting. If you’ve had an EPC done, you will also know that it’s possible to improve the energy efficiency, even of older buildings, with some relatively simple steps.
Building energy efficiency into a new construction project
When it comes to new builds, we have the ability – many would say the duty – to incorporate energy efficiency into the plans. When we talk about energy efficiency in construction we may immediately think of things like sustainable building materials, solar power and sophisticated heat exchange systems for climate control. However, to achieve maximum energy efficiency in any construction project, we should really take a holistic view of everything from first fix right down to the choice of light fittings and bulbs, because there are efficiencies to be gained at almost every step along the way.
Simple steps every building can benefit from
Fitting LEDs will immediately make any building more energy efficient because, unlike traditional lighting, they lose minimal energy through heat and they produce the same amount of light for a fraction of the electricity used by their incandescent, halogen or even CFL counterparts. As such, the benefits will be felt right away and will continue over a long period of time, and the initial modest investment will very quickly be repaid. Many kitchens and bathrooms are already designed with spotlights. Switching from halogen to LED, or taking a step further and going for dimmable products such as the MR11 will maximise energy efficiency – and reduce your lighting costs – at a stroke. Outdoors, consider the improvement in efficiency when you switch from the more conventional halogen security lighting, which consumes around 500W, to LED floodlights which produce a better light and throw for the consumption of a mere 30W.
Aiming for high standards
The Trias Energetica concept, the benchmark for energy efficiency in construction, has the core principle of reducing the demand for, and the waste of, energy. In a grand design this might include measures such as:
- positioning the building to make maximum use of natural heat and light from the sun,
- installing high-performance insulation and ventilation systems, or
- adding solar collectors to power heating and lighting
While it’s unlikely that a typical build will incorporate all of these features, all buildings have a requirement for lighting, and as we’ve seen, appreciable improvements in energy efficiency can be achieved simply by opting for LED lighting throughout. And so energy efficiency in construction is about so much more than the building design and materials. Every detail, down to the smallest, really can produce quantifiable improvements. And, when they are as simple as a switch to LED lighting, why wouldn’t you want to reap the benefits?