Save energy, save money

With ambitious legal commitments and tightening regulations, businesses and the public sector are under pressure to reduce the carbon footprint of their estates.
    
Building in the 21st century is about much more than just delivering a comfortable environment, regardless of environmental and financial cost. The impact of buildings on the environment and the energy they use is now paramount, both from a development and legislative perspective, and this trend is set to continue.
    
Buildings are directly responsible for nearly half of the UK’s energy consumption. So installing low-carbon technologies that provide the level of comfort that people are used to is vital in the race against climate change.

Cost savings
Building was one of the first industries to make the connection between the low carbon economy, and cost reduction. Particularly during the economic downturn, energy efficiency has been a key way for businesses to make both immediate and long term cost savings.
    
Reducing energy wastage through a building’s fabric is a great way to save money. For example – the typical office loses 60 per cent of its heat through its building fabric.
Organisations often find that the best time to upgrade building fabric is during major refurbishment, but most of these measures could be considered at any time.
    
With just a few simple steps, government buildings across the UK can save considerable amounts of money annually, without necessarily needing to invest in new technologies to start reducing buildings’ energy costs and carbon emissions. For example:
    
Roofs and lofts: Over 20 per cent of heat in a building is lost through the roof. Improving insulation levels in this area can often be very cost effective, particularly with pitched roofs. Insulating pitched roofs at ceiling level offers relatively short paybacks and can be carried out at any time. Install insulation carefully to ensure there are no thermal bridging problems and that the roof is ventilated to prevent condensation. Ensure water services and ducting are insulated to avoid condensation and freezing.
    
Windows: Used effectively, windows can reduce requirements for lighting and mechanical cooling. However, they can account for over a quarter of a building’s heat loss. Glazing lets in solar heat, and whilst this can be beneficial in reducing heating requirements in colder weather, it can make buildings uncomfortably warm in the summer, particularly for occupants seated next to windows. When refurbishment is being planned, considering double or triple glazing, high performance and low emissivity glass and external shading can make significant savings on your energy bill in the long term.
    
Doors: Easy access to almost any building is essential, but open doors can allow uncontrolled quantities of air into a building, reducing comfort conditions and wasting energy. Avoid energy waste by fitting draught lobbies to main entrances, installing a revolving door or consider interlocked control for heating systems.
    
Floors: Floors are often overlooked as an area for energy saving, but nearly 10 per cent of heat lost from a building will occur via the ground floor. In addition, un-insulated floors in multi-storey buildings can allow transfer of heat upwards causing higher floors to overheat whilst the lower ones struggle to reach a comfortable temperature.
    
Walls: Around nine per cent of heat lost in a building is through the fabric of the walls. Improving insulation here is particularly cost-effective in cavity walls.
    
Control strategy: The more complex a building’s needs are, the more you need a clear control strategy to provide its heating and cooling. Building control systems (combined with a building management policy) are usually the best way to reduce an office’s energy wastage. To be effective, controls need to be user-friendly for both managers and occupants.
    
Shading: Horizontal blinds or external shading are very good at reducing heat and glare through windows. As a low-cost fix, a novel idea might be to plant deciduous trees and shrubs near your windows. They’ll provide shade in summer, whilst letting through heat and sunlight in winter.

Carbon trust guidance
It is vital that when existing public buildings are refurbished, they are equipped with the latest energy saving devices, such as new energy efficient lighting, air conditioning replacements and lighting and heating controls.
    
Many public sector organisations are already realising the cost savings available by introducing energy saving measures throughout the refurbishment process, and if the public sector is to play a key role in the recovery from the downturn and the fight against climate change, then improving energy efficiency is a vital part of the journey.
    
Since 2001, through all of its activity, the Carbon Trust has advised and guided over 3,000 public sector organisations on carbon reduction. These implemented projects are expected to deliver over £650 million of savings over the lifetime of the projects.
    
Over 400 local authorities, NHS trusts and higher education institutions have worked directly with the Carbon Trust in similar programmes over recent years. As a result of implementing carbon management plans these organisations will cut their energy bills by over £300 million and their carbon dioxide emissions by over three million tonnes.

For more information

Web: www.carbontrust.co.uk

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