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Buildings and energy use

When we talk about a “sustainable building” we mainly focus on the energy it consumes and how the building can be designed to be more sustainable, but the design and construction of the building impacts the environment well before we occupy it when it is finished. Technical Adviser Romina De Santis sheds some light on embodied energy.

With Buildings consuming 32% of the world’s resources, 12% of its water and 40% of the energy, creating 40% of greenhouse gas emissions and 40% of waste to landfill, they stand to cop some measures to curb their impact. As governments close in to achieve emissions targets, buildings are clearly in their sights.

Following passive-solar design principles like good orientation, including thermal mass and insulation, providing cross ventilation and reducing air leakage help in reducing green house gas emissions. We can further improve the efficiency by correctly driving our building by opening and closing blinds and curtains, using efficient lighting and appliances – all reduce our operational energy.

Buildings are unique. Each home or commercial building will have its own set of components depending on the selections of the client, the location of the building, and the contractors work methods to put the building together.

The environmental impact of a building should have a measure that includes more than just its running costs. The energy used to produce the materials from natural resources, the transportation costs from where the materials are manufactured to the site, and then the energy used to construct the building as it stands today (and then its maintenance regime…)  this is the buildings’ embodied energy.

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