A Fundamental Element of Energy Efficiency: The Building Envelope

For property owners looking to improve energy efficiency, it may be difficult to find where to start. Given the availability of smart devices, many begin their energy efficiency journey with thermostats and programmable outlets. These gadgets allow occupants to fine-tune their energy consumption with an array of scheduling tools and timers. While useful, such devices might be undermined by air leakages in the building itself. Rather than investing entirely in smart devices, then. it may be prudent to address the building envelope instead. A building envelope is the boundary between the indoors and outdoors. It includes the roof, walls, insulation, doors, and windows of a building. The building envelope is critical in controlling exposure to the elements while allowing for ventilation where needed. Generally, the tighter the envelope, the more energy efficient a building will be. While many of the core components of the envelope are put in place during construction, alterations can be made over time as materials degrade. Property owners should regularly check for cracks, holes, and broken seals in walls, windows, and doors. A single broken seal near a window can allow for significant air leakage and greatly impact energy efficiency efforts. When components need to be replaced, owners should look for replacements that are rated to be more energy efficient. With doors, for example, shoppers should look for high R-values. The R-value measures a material’s resistance to conductive heat flow. Higher R-values indicate a greater level of insulation and effectiveness. A solid wood door, for example, typically has an R-value of R-2 or R-3 while an insulated steel or fiberglass door will have an R-value of R-6. Replacing old components with newer and more efficient ones can make a big difference. According to the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, the envelope accounts for approximately 30% of the primary energy consumed in residential and commercial buildings. Whether replacing components of the envelope entirely or merely checking component integrity, property owners can put a huge dent in energy deficiencies. For more information, visit Better Buildings.

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