Sustainability Should be a Priority from Concept Design
Mindful planning and design can have a huge impact on the reduction of energy use and pollution during the course of a building’s lifetime. Sustainable solutions are rapidly developing. Many offer both substantial cost savings and environmental benefits and particularly so when implemented at the earliest possible stage of a project. However, it’s also crucial to implement upgrades and retrofits of existing commercial buildings.
Achieving targets for global reductions in carbon dioxide emissions is a major challenge to any industry, as demand for energy increases. Using energy more efficiently is, therefore, of the utmost importance and requires a multi-pronged approach. For example, one of the easiest upgrades to implement in existing buildings is LED lighting. Generally, this requires a relatively small initial investment but can deliver almost immediate returns. Lighting can be fitted overnight to avoid disrupting occupants and commercial activities. Similarly, daylighting with windows and skylights provides enhanced natural light, thereby lessening the need for electric lighting during the day.
Other simple fixes include broadening the range of temperatures used inside a building by scheduling reduced services in unoccupied areas. Similarly, in the design phase of a building, daylight study techniques can ensure that everything from windows to walls is strategically positioned to provide shade during the summer while maximising solar gain in the winter. Adding exterior shading systems in sunny climates can also significantly reduce the demand for electricity during peak periods.
Obviously, some retrofits will require major investment and disruption and unsurprisingly, high costs and lower returns are barriers to change. Many heating and air conditioning systems last for decades and while they may not be energy efficient, they enable services managers to circumnavigate change.