How to Reduce Energy Consumption in Buildings?

How to Reduce Energy Consumption in Buildings?

Do you know that more than half the population of the world live in urban areas and a lot more are expected to migrate?

This is expected to increase energy consumption by more than 50% in the next two decades. And, a staggering 60% of the energy consumed is used to run the buildings. 

Green buildings and smart buildings are ideas with strategies that are already in place to deal with this explosion in demand. Among many other eco-friendly solutions, raising energy efficiency is the key concept behind these plans for energy-efficient buildings. 

Besides the benefits for the environment and avoiding wastage of the dwindling supply of energy sources, this is also considered in perfect alignment with the business strategy for the owner of the firm. 

Bringing down energy consumption can save big bucks for the business. This includes the installation of energy-efficient and energy-saving devices as well as raising awareness among employees of the need to follow good energy consumption practices. 

Reducing energy consumption will be effective when it is incorporated from the design and planning stage and is included as part of the building construction and building management systems. Developing good energy practices as an integral part of employee culture can help make significant savings on energy bills.

Read on to learn how you can raise building energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

6 strategies to raise building energy efficiency

1. With design 

Adopting bioclimatic design for buildings can help you make the best of available resources such as heat, light, and wind. 

  • Compact design to reduce the external surface area
  • Interior layout as per heating and lighting requirements
  • Controlled ventilation plan for each part of the interior as per requirement
  • Use shading, cross ventilation, and passive breezes to your advantage
  • Include solar energy system in the building design
  • Choose building materials to suit climatic requirements 
  • Use skylight and automatic light as much as possible
  • Pay attention to the position and design of windows to suit the location

2. With construction

  • Choose the right location and orientation
  • Appropriately orient entrance/exit to prevent energy loss
  • Avoid uncontrolled air leakage through openings, gaps, and cracks
  • Use exterior cladding, air barrier, and insulation to prevent energy loss
  • Weatherizing the building with weather stripping and caulking
  • Fitting doors and windows with the correct draught excluders
  • Thermal insulation to reduce loss of energy

3. With equipment and installations 

  • Use latest air compressors that modify electric load as per requirement
  • Install a programmable thermostat to avoid energy wastage during non-working hours
  • Use heat recovery to tap into the wasted heat energy from devices
  • Use solar or geothermal water heaters if the location permits
  • If not, opt for instant water heaters to avoid energy loss
  • Install thermostats with easy access and use them appropriately
  • Fitting doors with self-closing mechanisms to minimize the time they are open and prevent energy loss
  • Install motion-sensitive lights and light switches
  • Switch to LED lighting
  • Install power-management software on computers to turn off monitors, CPUs, and hard drives when not in use

4. With office culture

  • Educating employees to be more energy conscious and energy-efficient
  • Conducting periodical seminars to create awareness
  • Giving incentives and holding competitions to get employees more involved in the process
  • Training employees to operate equipment correctly to avoid energy wastage
  • Encouraging employees to turn off equipment and switch off lights when not in use
  • Periodical maintenance of HVAC systems
  • Making it part of office culture to switch off devices, appliances, and installations when not in use

5. With regular monitoring

  • Periodical audit of energy usage to understand how much energy each device or installation is using
  • Checking the installations for energy wastage
  • Ensure the installations are functioning as designed
  • Adding, replacing, or retro-fitting energy-draining installations and technologies
  • Adjusting the temperature of heating/cooling systems to optimal levels
  • Switching off heaters and air-conditioners when not required
  • Ensuring that the building services and equipment are utilized well, monitored regularly, and periodically serviced
  • Clean windows to ensure that maximum natural light comes in
  • Using light reflective paint indoors to amplify the lighting

6. With plans for improvement

  • Seeking out more energy-efficient processes and products
  • Looking for higher efficiency by integrating processes and products rather than focusing on individual technologies
  • Finding ways to avoid energy wastage pointed out in the energy audit
  • Coming up with methods to improve operation and maintenance of installations in the building
  • Draw up plans for after-hours energy management
  • Framing policy to promote energy-efficient technologies
  • Draw up and implement an efficient energy management system for the building

Now, let’s see some of the above suggestions in detail.

Top 4 energy-efficient strategies

1. Upgrade your equipment and systems

As the world wakes up to the importance of energy conservation and the need to reduce its wastage, newer technologies are being developed every day. Reducing energy consumption directly translates to efficient management of energy. This means upgrading old devices and installations that are causing energy drain. 

One of the most important systems to consider for up-gradation is HVAC. As HVAC systems get older, they will do a poor job in maintaining air quality indoors as well as they consume more energy than the newer models. You can look out for energy-star-certified devices to identify the best ones in the market.

Replacing the old HVAC systems may involve expenditure but it can be recovered in the long run with energy savings. Moreover, this is an important strategy to bring down energy consumption.

2. Reduce water consumption

To reduce energy costs and consumption, it is natural to focus on installations and processes that use up energy. However, one of the basic needs in a building that you tend to forget is water usage. Water is a hidden user of energy. To ensure uninterrupted water availability in the building, this essential resource is pumped 24×7.

Often, the easy availability of water makes you forget how precious a resource it is. You tend to overuse and waste it because you are unaware of the effort that goes into ensuring its availability. Raising awareness about the need to reduce water usage can also help bring down energy consumption. 

It will also help to do a water audit and find ways to reduce its usage as well as wastage.

3. Change your approach

Energy conservation need not always involve expensive modernization of installations and systems. It can be as simple as remembering to turn off the light when you leave work for the day or even leave your desk for 5 or 10 minutes. This is a mindset that needs to be instilled in every person in the building to get positive results.

Awareness programs can do a lot of help to make everyone realize the importance of limiting your energy consumption. However, making people follow these simple suggestions is something different altogether. Those who follow the “save energy” policies at home may not do the same at the office because they just don’t feel the need to or care enough. 

Including the participation of everyone in planning, decision-making, and execution may help in changing the mindset.

4. Choose renewable energy

Again, the cost may be a stumbling block for this move. However, you can recover the cost in a few years and for the remaining years, you can enjoy free energy. Even if you did not consider this at the time of construction, it doesn’t matter. Retro-fitting renewable energy sources like solar has become so easy. 

As years pass by, the cost of solar is coming down steadily. Together with the federal tax credits and financial incentives offered by state and local governments, it is a win-win situation for you. If your location is ideal for a solar installation, you can even generate more energy than you need and sell it to the grid with the net-metering arrangement.

Final Thought

When you are looking for strategies for bringing down energy consumption in buildings, you should be able to view individual areas and requirements as well as look at the bigger picture. 

As energy audits may reveal the vulnerabilities in individual installations or processes, these definitely need to be taken care of. At the same time, the changes made should not be at the expense of other processes or installations. To this end, you also need to view the system as a whole. 

When you can grasp how the power systems in the building are interrelated, you will find success in increasing energy efficiency and reducing wastage as well as consumption.

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