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Keeping Your Building Energy Efficient

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There are virtually hundreds of ways to keep your new building energy efficient. If you are in the planning and construction phase – from the very moment your plans are lying on the architect’s table – you can make decisions to keep the heating and cooling costs down for all the years to come. There are also ways to re-think and retrofit your older building to be more energy efficient. It takes a bit of time, and perhaps an energy audit by your local electric provider, but with some thought, you can make even an older building energy efficient.

Construction Materials

Consider using building materials which capture and conduct the heat of the sun. Dense materials like stone, brick or concrete are often used as part of a proactive approach to energy efficiency. Thermal mass materials as in metal or concrete construction also lend themselves well to the use of active solar heating systems when and if passive solar heating isn’t enough. Plan for plenty of insulation – consider Insulating Concrete Forms, ICR. These forms provide an air barrier within the walls to prevent thermal bridging. Finally, when you’re roofing your building, remember that here in the greater Georgia area, there is rarely a need to intensify the sun’s heat. Use light-reflecting materials on the roof to cool down the summer heat.

Lighting Choices

Make use of natural light by incorporating skylights in your building plans. Orient your building so that the high performance windows you’ve chosen can make the most of south and west exposures. Ask your landscape architect to plant only deciduous trees near the south and western-facing windows. This will provide shade in summer and unobstructed access to sunlight exposure in winter months after leaves have fallen. Make use of ceiling fans wherever possible to ease your heating/cooling costs. Finally, when you buy bulbs for your lighting fixtures, make sure they are endorsed by Energy Star.

Maintain Your Maintenance Schedule

Just as you regularly service your high-performance car to keep it running at peak efficiency, you must also service heating and cooling systems. Change filters regularly and have the systems inspected annually by a qualified contractor.  It is important not to neglect your ducting system in these annual inspections. Since nearly twenty-percent of the heated or cooled air moving through duct work is lost, sealing leaks should be a high priority.  Have programmable thermostats installed and use them to take control of temperatures throughout your building.

Not only will building and maintaining an energy efficient building save you money, it will also make the world a better place. For many great ideas about how to create a greener office or home, visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

March 20, 2014