How can you keep the energy expenses of a building under control with energy-efficient upgrades?

In anticipation of the coming heating period, many companies are forced to think about how and which costs to cut to have the means for the upkeep of their buildings. There are different options for savings, but tackling the root of the problem by finding ways to increase the energy efficiency of your buildings and reduce consumption is definitely worthwhile.

Energy efficiency – nothing new

Years ago, the EU directive on the energy performance of buildings set a goal to improve the energy efficiency and reduce the emission of GHGs of buildings by 2050, thereby achieving the objective of a building stock with zero emissions. By focusing on the reconstruction of existing buildings, the directive points out that until 2030, full reconstruction means bringing energy efficiency to the level of nearly zero-energy buildings, and after 2030, to the level of zero-emission buildings.

In zero-emission buildings, the supplied energy must be offset by renewable energy. Moreover, states are obligated to establish support measures to encourage full reconstruction. Although 2030 and 2050 seem like the distant future, the current situation puts pressure on companies to tackle this issue as quickly as possible.

How to reduce the amount of energy used for heating, cooling, and lighting in a building?

Energy savings might seem like the most urgent issue at the moment, but you should look further than that. In addition to lower upkeep costs, a comprehensive approach will lead to an increase in the value and a longer lifespan of a building as well as create a healthier and more comfortable working environment for the users.

Before making any large investments in the reconstruction of a building and improving its sustainability, you should determine whether the investment would be worthwhile. Is the structure of the building durable? Would the foundation and the ground need improvements to meet the current standards and construction laws? Does it contain hazardous materials used in the past such as asbestos or lead paint that should be removed?

Once you have determined that other conditions of construction do not prevent improvements, you should conduct an audit and prepare an action plan to identify the best options for increasing the sustainability and energy efficiency of internal systems and devices as well as the frame of the building.

How can you determine with the help of an energy audit whether the current systems are working at an optimal level or if they should be replaced? What should you keep in mind when selecting new ones?

  • It is possible to achieve remarkable savings on utility costs if the frame and technical systems of a building function optimally, meaning that there are no leaks, filters or dampers are not clogged, sensors work properly, and the wiring is in good condition.
  • The performance of water systems is also worth auditing because leaky or inefficient pipes pollute the environment and use unnecessary amounts of energy for operating pumps and other devices.
  • The utility costs of the last few years help to determine whether consumption (not the cost) has increased due to an inefficient system. If the consumption has increased, then you can adopt smart energy and water systems that help to reduce inefficient consumption.
  • You can install smart electricity, gas, water, and other utility service meters in your building to monitor consumption, control demand, and increase a sense of responsibility in tenants.
  • You can assess energy utilisation patterns and use sensors that are appropriate for the tasks and functions of the premises and help to save on costs.
  • You can look into renewable energy options which could offset the purchase of fossil fuel-based energy and analyse the advantages of decentralised generation. If you are planning to produce the energy you need independently or if there is a building nearby that already is doing this, then you can look into sharing locally produced energy.
  • You can determine the airtightness of the building frame by checking for leaks in the windows and other openings and the proper functioning of the vents, and ensuring that moisture is not entering the building. Upgrading heating and air conditioning systems without solving these issues will lead to decreased performance of the systems.
  • When replacing old windows with new ones, you should assess their resilience to the climate and their capacity to suppress external and internal noise. You should also consider using solar panel blinds on windows and doors.
  • You should determine whether natural ventilation and intake of fresh air would help to lessen the heating and cooling load.

When planning renovations, you should keep in mind the heat island effect so that the materials used would not absorb too much solar energy and reflect it as heat into the surrounding environment. For example, a cool or a green roof would be a cost-effective way to mitigate the heat island effect and the drainage of rain water. If you manage to prevent the heat island effect, then the cooling costs of the building are also lower.

A complete energy audit provides a thorough overview of the aforementioned aspects, but even if you are planning smaller renovations in your building, it is worth consulting the specialists of Forus. Energy simulations help to model the impact of necessary individual changes and assess how well these would reduce the annual energy consumption of a building. Based on the model, the owner of a building is able to decide whether and how quickly a change will pay off financially, and only then begin reconstructions.

You can read more about the energy audit here. On the same page, you will find the contact details of the person who is able to help you with issues related to the audit.

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