The reasons for choosing a very low energy building are clear: who could resist a great indoor climate, significantly lower energy bills and reduced noise pollution?
Happily, very low energy buildings are not only to be found in designer magazines. Be it for a family home, primary school, office building or factory, very low energy buildings are now attainable at very reasonable prices.
Creating a new, very low energy building or improving the energy performance of an existing building gives us greater control over energy costs. Buildings last between 50-to-100 years or more, so making them as energy efficient as possible makes a lot of sense.
Very low energy equals very low energy bills. Such buildings empower households by decreasing their exposure to energy price volatility which has become an all too familiar characteristic of today’s energy market. Low and stable oil prices seem to be a thing of the past and energy prices have risen to record highs over the last few years.
Oil is a finite natural resource, subject to depletion. The term Peak Oil refers to the maximum rate of the production of oil. According to ASPO, The Association for the Study of Peak Oil, we are consuming many times more conventional oil than is being discovered – making security of energy supply an increasingly difficult and expensive challenge.
Another key benefit of insulation is the level of comfort it provides. Low energy buildings create a great indoor climate by using the latest building techniques to deliver homes and workspaces that are free from unwelcome draughts. A healthy and comfortable climate is achieved through smart management of ventilation. What’s more, today’s insulation products also considerably enhance building safety and provide superior acoustic performance.
Defining very low energy buildings and the criteria upon which a building’s energy performance is rated varies from market to market. Typically, very low energy buildings use at least 50% less energy than the minimum required by the national building regulations.
For a home owner, insulation provides a sound investment and is one of the most effective ways to save CO2 and improve quality of life. According to the German body, Deutsche Energie-Agentur, renovating a very poorly insulated 150m² house, built to 1970s energy standards, would reduce household energy demands by 3,600 litres of oil per year. In other words, a reduction of 11 tonnes of CO2 per year. All it takes is better insulation, good windows and some other energy efficiency measures.
Making low energy buildings a reality is essential if Europe is to have a bright future.
Publicly owned buildings have been tasked with playing a leadership role. Since May 2008, the EU obliges all public buildings to display energy performance certificates. By 2018, new public buildings in the EU must be nearly zero-energy constructions according to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) .
A range of commonly used terms have emerged to describe the different types of energy efficient buildings: low energy buildings; very low energy buildings; passive houses; energy-producing buildings; and zero-carbon buildings. Common to them all is an intelligent architectural design which analyses all energy-related elements, such as building orientation and building materials, and which details the optimal insulation, ventilation, cooling and sunlight protection systems.
So, while it’s true that each country has its own building tradition and climate conditions, be it for cold or hot regions the challenge remains the same - how can we best reduce our energy bills?
The answer is very low energy buildings. Although initial costs may be slightly higher than those incurred by a traditional building approach, the health, comfort and huge savings that flow from investing in reliable low energy solutions very quickly pays dividends.