The Importance of Energy Efficient Building Design

October 10, 2023

So we’re hoping to inspire you about the power of sustainability and the benefits of designing a built environment for a better future - Because buildings that have sustainability at their core are proven to enhance the productivity and health and safety of their occupants.

You see, the bottom line is that energy efficient building design isn’t about virtue signalling and being seen to be green; there are real savings to be made with this approach in terms of energy consumption, operational costs, and maintenance costs.

So what is energy efficient building design?

Energy efficient buildings are designed and constructed in a way that maximises the energy they consume. Sustainable design processes focus on reducing energy loss by, as one example, minimising the amount of heat lost through the building envelope. Energy efficient homes, whether they are existing ones being refurbished or new ones being built from the ground up, are less expensive to operate, more comfortable to live in, and more environmentally friendly.

Keeping energy efficient building design top of mind when construction is underway is a more effective way to approach making a home more efficient, making it less expensive for the eventual homeowner in the long run. Building codes exist around the world to ensure that buildings are energy efficient to a certain degree, however sometimes it is wise to go above and beyond these recommendations to have an even more energy efficient building. You can install the most up-to-date heating and cooling systems on the market, but that’s a complete waste if the insulation you fit isn't keeping heat in during the winter and out in the summer.

What makes for a more energy efficient building?

Location, location, location

Sometimes the geographical location of a building might be out of your control, but its proximity to public transport needs to be considered. Energy efficiency is about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So when a building is close to good public transport connections, it lessens the likelihood that occupants will need to rely on their own cars to get to and from work. If the location of the building is not up for debate, then the next thing to consider is orientation. Can you dictate which way it will face? By taking advantage of sunlight and placing windows accordingly, this can save on energy use for heating.

Recycle an existing building

Retrofitting or refurbishing a standing building saves on the materials required to complete construction, and reduces the energy it would take to build an entirely new structure. Where retrofitting an existing building is not an option, the new one being designed should keep it in mind. That makes it a better prospect for a potential buyer or investor should the building (or its intended use) change hands in the distant future.

You can also read more on the role of recycled materials in construction projects.

Building size

Big buildings are impressive, but if the size is unnecessary it is a waste of energy and resources. Smaller buildings require fewer materials to construct and less energy to operate, saving thousands in construction and operation costs.

How the building is insulated is crucial

Properly insulating a building with a quality product reduces the risk of hot or cold air escaping, helping to save on energy expenditure. Triple-pane and low-emissivity windows can help insulate and protect the building further. While insulated concrete forms and metal framing can create a more durable, energy efficient structure able to withstand weather extremes.

How you heat and cool the building is everything

A high-efficiency HVAC system will be the backbone of an energy efficient building. This single system controls the heating, ventilation, and cooling for the entire building. The placement of vents is critical to how the HVAC system works. Vents should be placed strategically in rooms and hallways, where they are easy to reach for cleaning and maintenance, but still out-of-reach enough that they won’t get blocked by furniture or equipment.

Energy efficient lighting

LED light bulbs have become a popular choice for energy efficient buildings because they use about 50% less electricity, last longer, perform better in cold temperatures, and are less likely to break. They turn on instantly and can easily be paired with automatic dimmers with sensors that allow you to take advantage of natural sunlight during the day when it is bright and use less electricity. Fitting task lighting in areas not in constant use will save energy too. 

Going solar

Solar panels installed on rooftops can enable you to rely less on electricity, which drastically cuts the amount you spend on lighting and running various appliances and machines.

How Metec designs for optimum energy efficiency

This World Environment Day, we need to think more about how we can reduce the number of natural resources, land, raw materials, and energy we use in creating buildings and significantly decreasing the number of greenhouse gases being released into the environment. Here is a project we are very proud of at Metec that puts into practice our energy efficient design principles. 

Adare Manor: The Padel Club

The objective of this project was to create a beautiful experience space of wellness and recreation with two indoor padel courts, golf simulation room, 17-metre swimming pool with sauna and steam room, as well as a fully equipped gym and studio.

The Padel Club, Adare Manor

Our focus was on incorporating renewable and sustainable technologies and employing natural ventilation. A specialist LED lighting and control scheme was installed throughout the building, while air source heat pumps were utilised for heating and hot water needs.

To date, this project has been recognised as "Building of the Year 2022", received an RIAI Architecture Award 2021, and an Irish Construction Excellence Award 2022. 

A sustainable culture, driven by the sustainability team

The sustainability team at Metec has been hand-picked for their passion, qualifications and experience in the areas of building performance, sustainability, energy savings over the lifecycle of the building, and perhaps even more importantly, the experience of its occupiers.

If you would like to know more energy efficient building design and the benefits of sustainable design, get in touch with Scott Caldwell, Head of Sustainability at Metec, today.

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