Energy efficiency of buildings: six innovative constructions show the way forward

energy efficiency, LED, solar panels, photovoltaic, power consumptionBuildings in Europe account for almost 40% of energy use and 36% of CO2 emissions, nearly 35% worldwide according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Constructors and equipment manufacturers aware of environmental issues already offer a number of solutions, especially in order to cut power consumption (photovoltaic panels, heat pumps, geothermal power). States are also committed to improving energy efficiency with government schemes such as the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme in the UK or the Energy Policy Act in the US. But what does an energy efficient building actually look like? What special features does it include? Here is an overview of six innovative constructions.

A mall in the shape of a termite mound in Zimbabwe

The Eastgate Center in Harare includes both a mall and office space, although it doesn’t look like either of them, that is usually glass and metal structures where it is difficult to maintain an adequate temperature. It takes inspiration from termite mounds, as it includes chimneys equipped with an automated shutting system whose location and direction were carefully designed so as to provide an optimal airflow. The materials used allow a passive cooling by absorbing outside heat and releasing it after dark. As a result, it is 90% more energy efficient than a conventional building of the same size.

Australian architects take inspiration from the human body: the Council House 2

During the design of the Council House 2 (CH2) in Melbourne, heating and air-conditioning systems came under close scrutiny. Turbines located on the roof provide optimal ventilation. Photovoltaic panels and solar water heaters meet most of the electricity needs. Simultaneously, an innovative water storage system absorbs outside heat and assists with air-conditioning, avoiding electricity overconsumption during heat waves: these so-called “shower towers” take inspiration from human perspiration. Finally, waste air is cleared at night thanks to an automated window-opening system, which avoids temperature loss during working hours.

An energy-independent building in Vancouver

The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) is a building producing more energy than it consumes. It is wrapped in a thermal envelope which minimizes heating expenses and includes a heat exchanger connected to the neighbouring building, coupled with a geothermal system powering both constructions. Power production occurs through solar panels located on the atrium roof and window sunshades. These facilities enable the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus to spare over a million kWh a year.

An American casino bets on electricity efficiency

The Rivers Casino resorts to quite simple but very effective energy efficiency schemes, such as LED fixtures in the parking garage and other outside areas. Contrary to conventional casinos, large windows favour natural lighting inside. At night motion sensors switch on the lights only when necessary. Finally, living green walls provide fresh air while reducing the use of power for ventilation.

Beijing goes for LEDs

Located right next to the 2008 Olympic buildings, GreenPix is the first building to include a photovoltaic system in a glass wall. This wall encrusted with photovoltaic cells stores energy during the day and also allows sunlight inside while reducing the heat that goes with it.

Maximum light exposure for a London skyscraper

Inaugurated in 2004 in the City business district in London, the 30 St Mary Axe uses wind power all year round for its ventilation. Its spiral, honeycombed structure and the weather stations which monitor its windows mitigate the inside temperature. Besides, each storey has the shape of a six-pointed star, which provides maximum exposure to natural light.

Photo © aur2899

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