Energy efficient building materials

Written by sarah rigg
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Energy efficient building materials
(Wikimedia Commons | Lisadileo)

Whether it's to preserve the environment or to save money, using energy-efficient building materials is a smart move today. Building from the start or remodelling an existing home or office with energy efficient materials can produce big savings. Below, you'll learn more about the types of energy-efficient building materials available and the benefits of using them.

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Function

Using energy-efficient building materials when constructing a home or office means the building will use less energy and save more money to operate long-term. Insulating against cold, using natural light and shade to lower heating and cooling costs, and installing energy-saving lighting systems and appliances all help make a building more efficient.

Types

Energy-efficient building materials include insulation, shading devices (sunshades, canopies, landscape elements such as trees), light-coloured roofing material that reflects heat, windows and doors with Energy Star ratings, durable weather seals, economical heating and cooling systems, and windows and skylights that maximise use of natural light. Other options include energy-efficient lighting systems (using LED or compact fluorescent bulbs), built-in appliances with Energy Star ratings, and programmable thermostats.

Size

The size of a building and the amount of materials that go into it affects how much energy is used just as much as what types of materials are used. Larger homes and offices requires more energy for heating, cooling and lighting. Empty living and office space means energy is going to waste.

Significance

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, homes and other buildings use about two-thirds of the total electricity consumed in the country each year. By the government's own estimates, federal government buildings spent about £2.3 billion in energy costs in the year 1997 alone. By following energy-efficient design principles, it's possible to use considerably less energy in homes and commercial buildings without significantly affecting the comfort of the occupants or the ability to get business done.

Benefits

Homes and commercial buildings that are certified as being superior in energy and environmental design by the U.S. Green Building Council use between 30 per cent and 60 per cent less energy than comparable traditionally constructed buildings. This means that the owners save money operating the buildings long-term. Other benefits to building with energy-efficient materials can include tax breaks and other government incentives. Grants and loans are sometimes available for commercial developers that intend to construct energy-efficient buildings, or homeowners who want to remodel to save energy. Commercial builders who commit to using energy-efficient building materials often have a better chance of getting work on government building projects, because many state and local governments are now requiring that new facilities be built to "green" standards.

Geography

The materials needed to create an energy-efficient building vary by climate. For instance, in very cold climates, insulation and weather seals that prevent heat loss are a high priority. In hot, dry climates, materials for roofs and windows should minimise the impact of solar radiation on heat build-up in homes and buildings and reduce the need for air conditioning.

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