I’d like to ask you the reader, what do you think I mean by the word ‘green’ in the title of this blog. I'd guess that most of you thought of multiple facets of green, but primarily thought of energy.
In the past decade, most conversations you have likely had about anything 'green' have had a large emphasis on energy. In some cases, it was probably the only topic in the conversation; energy consumption has become the cultural catch-all for being green. (even though energy consumption is only a piece of the green pie!)
Why has 'saving energy' become synonymous with “green”? This may sound like a trivial question but to put it in perspective, consider that twenty some years ago, the phrase ‘green’ was synonymous with “Don’t be a litterbug” and not using CFC’s. To say the least, perceptions have changed, and we have reached a perfect storm for promoting energy-efficiency. In my opinion, this perfect storm is a result of a number of socio-economic factors. Here are the top 3 on my list:
1) World-wide concern of climate change
- This makes saving energy ‘cool’.
- Saving energy is culturally relevant and marketable
2) Dramatic increase in energy consumption worldwide
- Increases the demand for cheap energy
- Raises price of energy
3) Worldwide economic chaos
- The ROI for energy saving investments is easy to calculate and all but guaranteed.
- Companies can use energy savings to increase their bottom line
- For remaining investors, higher energy prices coupled with higher market risks makes investing in energy savings more lucrative.
Considering these 3 factors, when you are saving or conserving energy, you are doing the right thing, you are doing what is ‘cool’, and on top of all that you are being fiscally responsible while making an investment that will pay back (this ROI is one of the key arenas where energy-modeling is important!)
Now ask yourself, how often do your conscience, your reputation, and your pocketbook agree? Someone who is extremely frugal with energy is now deemed a hero where in the past they might have been called a cheapskate!
“Energy is everything, but it’s not the only thing”
If you wish for humanity to continue on this worldwide trend and keep energy conservation in ‘the cool kids club’, remember that we can’t sacrifice luxury, comfort, or performance for energy efficiency. To paraphrase a well known quote, “Energy is everything, but it’s not the only thing”. You see, while technically speaking energy is everything, including all matter and thought, it isn’t the only factor with respect to an energy efficient future. Cultural relevance is key. To keep energy efficiency relevant, remember that the energy efficient items need to be as good as or better than the items they replace.
Here at energy-models.com, our focus is on buildings, so let's consider some examples that MUST be considered alongside energy consumption, perhaps even consider these ABOVE energy consumption. It could be said that you design your building to save energy given these important factors:
Occupant health and wellness
This is largely attributed to providing adequate outdoor air, which can be energy expensive.
How do you offset this energy expense?
Demand Control Ventilation
Energy Recovery Wheels
- Airside Economizers and much more
Occupant Thermal Comfort
Thermal Comfort is not necessarily something you notice when you first walk into a new building, but it will be a primary factor if you spend much time in the building. Naturally, people do not like to feel cold in the winter and do not like to feel hot in the summer.
What can you do?
- Install good windows, reducing cold drafts, and reducing direct solar glare
- Ensure proper airflow and zoning based on your airside system (this is done by quality building design)
Ease of Use
The building must be simpler or as simple to operate than a conventional building. Otherwise, the inevitable override will occur by the building operators. This will likely lead to a less comfortable building, and a building that uses more energy than intended. This would be devastating to the cause of building energy efficiency.
- Install integrated controls that require minimal programming
- Get to know the building operators and what they are comfortable with
- Provide ample training for building operators
As you can already see from this small subset of factors, building design is complicated. We’ve only touched on a small tip of the iceberg here and it only gets more complicated. A clever solution is needed. The number one tool in any building designer’s arsenal that can factor in so many variables is building energy simulation, with the emphasis naturally on building energy-modeling.
Building Energy-modeling (BEM) can easily determine a return on investment, life cycle cost, energy savings and more. Many software packages can also do thermal comfort analysis, daylighting analysis, building load calculations and more. For many people, if it is just about energy-cost and emissions, you can run an energy model to determine if an upfront investment pays for itself. When you find the right setup for your building, you can go green and save some green.