February 17, 2017

Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

In the United States, almost 20 percent of the total energy used is by schools, hospitals, hotels and other commercial buildings. Incorporating energy-saving features into new and old commercial buildings can save both energy and money. These features can also improve the comfort level for those that work and spend time in the buildings. An innovative approach to creating an energy efficient commercial building is the whole-building design. A method proved to save both money and energy. The whole-building method is where all the parts of a building are designed and built to work together as a complete system, not as individual parts. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, structures built by the whole-building approach can be nearly 70 percent more efficient than structures built by a conventional approach.

Whole Building Design Increases Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

The whole building design consists of two parts. The integrated design approach and the integrated team process. The integrated design approach is when everyone involved in the project works as a team and brings their expertise to the table. The team includes the architects, engineers, developers, contractors, owners, and even the people who will occupy and work in the building. As a team, they look at the project's goals, the construction materials, systems, and assemblies. As a group, they set goals for energy efficiency, performance, and creative use of the space.The team is involved in all facets of the building’s design and construction.

The integrated team process ensures that everyone on the team interacts closely throughout all phases of the project. From defining the need for the building, through planning, design, construction, commissioning, building occupancy, operations, and maintenance. Team members should also understand each other's issues and concerns and be prepared to assist with problems outside their expertise. Whole building design treats the building process as one entity, not a collection of separate projects.

A Solid, Insulated Building Envelope can Lower Energy Costs and Save Energy

In 2012, nearly 35 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings was for heating and cooling. A quick way to lower energy costs in a commercial building is to adjust the thermostat. Also, regularly cleaning and maintaining the HVAC system can reduce heating and cooling bills. On a larger scale, ensuring the building's envelope is insulated, solid, and air tight can significantly improve the comfort level inside a building and decrease the use of energy. The building's envelope is the thermal barrier that controls the flow of heat, moisture, and air between the exterior and interior of the building. It includes the walls, roof, windows and doors.

Energy Efficient Walls

The walls of a high performing, energy efficient commercial building must also meet standards for safety and fire-resistance. Materials for walls that are light, easy to install and have high levels of insulation are best. Bautex Block is an example of such material. It is a lightweight, stay-in-place insulated concrete block that installs quickly, is durable, fire-rated, noise-reducing, and storm-resistant.

The thermal mass of the Bautex block wall absorbs energy and delays transfer through the outside walls of the structure. Utilizing Bautex blocks results in lower HVAC operating costs than when utilizing low mass systems like metal and wood framing in the exterior walls. The color and textures of a building’s exterior walls also affect the way heat is absorbed and radiated by the building. Cool colors that reflect the sun's rays are the most energy efficient. Installing walls that have high levels of continuous insulation is essential to a high performing, energy efficient commercial building.

Energy Efficient Roofing

There are several ways to make the roof of a commercial building energy efficient. In all climates, solar panels on the roof can collect the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity, which saves energy, money and slows global warming. In warm climates, the most energy efficient roofing is light in color or metallic so that it reflects the sun’s rays.

Energy Efficient Windows

When planning for an energy efficient commercial building, windows and lighting are an essential consideration. High-performance buildings make the most of natural light by placing the windows to maximize incoming sunlight and minimize excess heat. Shades and louvers on southern facing windows can block out the heat in the summer and let warmth in during the winter.

Windows that automatically darken when direct sunlight hits them (electrochromic and thermochromic) give added control of brightness, glare, and heat. As of 2012,  ten percent of energy use in commercial buildings goes to lighting. Efficient and practical use of natural light can easily reduce the energy bill in a commercial building.

Energy Efficient Workstations

Finally, creating energy efficient workstations can save on the energy bills in commercial buildings. Consider more natural lighting, energy-efficient laptop computers, LED desk lamps, and energy management systems that can monitor, control and conserve energy in the building.

Building an energy efficient commercial building is no longer a consideration. It is a requirement. Energy efficient commercial buildings have increased profits, reduced operating expenses, and increased property value. An excellent example of an energy efficient building is the Bautex headquarters, in San Marcos, Texas. It is a 3900 square foot office building built specifically to reduce energy consumption and improve indoor environmental quality. Bautex, along with real estate developer Ironsight PSMT, incorporated the use of continuous insulation and mass wall system, integrated building envelope design and efficient HVAC and lighting systems to create a high-performing office building at a competitive market cost. Bautex headquarter’s cost for lighting, heating, and cooling is 59 percent lower than the energy consumption of the typical office building in their region of the country. Integrating all the parts of the building so that they work together, is key to creating an energy efficient, high performing commercial building.