Table of Contents
Someone commented wryly that the most energy-efficient building is the one without occupants. In our editorial take on energy, we don’t recommend anything so drastic. We offer instead examples of how low energy design is achieved by answering four questions.
First, how much energy do you choose to not consume? Here, the spotlight falls on passive design, indoor comfort without reliance on mechanical-electrical (M&E) systems. A mosque in Malaysia (Cyberjaya Mosque); an airport in Jordan (Queen Alia International Airport); and a home in Vietnam (Termitary House)—each is exemplary in the way it uses shade and light, ventilation and thermal mass. But this is not an either-or choice. Passive design is a calibration on how much of the day or year a building can function before M&E systems need to be switched on. Systems are installed but they are used less frequently or to cool less space.
Second, how efficiently do you consume what you consume? Our experts offer two views. The first examines the metrics of cooling (Be Cool: Dealing with Heat and Humidity in the Tropics). What does an air-conditioner do? How far can one push available technology for cooling? The answer, it seems, is ‘very far’: savings for a large building can amount to millions of dollars a year. The second examines new ways of thinking about comfort that leads to new modes of cooling (Rethinking Comfort: A Pathway to Low-Energy Buildings). Hybrid systems are here, and they offer new possibilities. To the numerically challenged, we ask that you don’t give up on these two commentaries. This is important stuff.
Third, how much demand is met with on-site production? Our writers look at renewables in Asia (Changing Asia’s Solar Game) and Australia (Solar in Australia). The case for solar PV is gaining ground in these places, both as a means of achieving national targets for carbon abatement and reducing the impact of dirty energy on human health.
Fourth—and this is often overlooked in these discussions—how are questions on demand, efficiency, and production brought together? The ‘how’ of integration is illustrated with three projects in Hawaii, (Energy Positive Relocatable Classroom), Japan (Zero-Energy Demonstration Building, Taisei Technology Center) and Norway (Urban Mountain). The latter in particular illustrates how form can become a means to achieving performance.
Lastly, to keep us from losing perspective, our correspondent Jalel Sager turns the tables by saying that nothing happens until we understand why (Earth, not Energy). Why, if all that know-how is out there, are we not doing something yet? The answer, he argues, is that our actions are driven by something deeper than techno-fixes. Our world view matters; the way we think about the planet matters. And until there are new mindsets, we will pat ourselves on the back for doing too little too late. There is no need to evacuate a building of its occupants, we just need to evacuate our minds of old habits.
As always, we welcome your views. Drop us an email, a comment on Facebook or Twitter.