building design energy

An introduction to energy efficiency through passive design

The building industry uses about 75% of electricity production in the US. This means that if we can make our building-related-energy-use more efficient we can make a big dent in the amount of electricity that we need to produce, and thus make a dent in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we are releasing into the atmosphere by burning coal and natural gas to make electricity.

Energy efficiency in our homes can come a few different forms, but for the next few weeks I will be focusing specifically on energy efficiency through passive design. To start, let’s break it down. Energy efficiency means using less energy to achieve the same ends. In terms of buildings, I am going to focus on are lighting, heating, cooling, and water use efficiency. Passive design is when a building is built in a certain way so that you don’t have to use energy to save energy. For example, using sunlight to light a room is a passive design element because the sun is already there. You don’t have to add any energy into the system (the building) to produce light. Using an LED light bulb to provide light is an active design element because, while you are using much less energy than a filament bulb or CFL, you are still adding energy to light the room with the LED.

As you might guess, the best time to incorporate passive design elements into a building is before it’s even built. But there are some things you can do to an already existing structure to make it more energy efficient through passive design. I’ll be sure to cover both areas as this series continues.

As always, if you have any questions up front about passive design, send them my way and I’ll do my best to answer them as we go.

Oh, hey, Building Earth has a facebook page now.  Keep up to date on posts and other interesting green news by liking us!