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.