Buildings Sector


Infrastructure Mitigation Opportunities Global

(Source: IPCC Climate Change 2001 Working Group III: Mitigation section 3.3)

There are many opportunities for energy improvement in buildings. Most of these technologies are not fully implemented or have been recently developed. They will begin to penetrate the market as existing buildings are retrofitted and new buildings are designed constructed.

The following examples focus on options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the buildings sector; Integrated building design, reducing standby power losses in appliances and equipment, and photovoltaic systems for residential and commercial buildings. There has been considerable research on these measures recently; improving the building shell, improving building equipment and appliances, and switching to lower carbon fuels to condition the air and power the equipment and appliances in buildings.

Integrated Building Design

Integrated building design takes advantage of energy-saving opportunities associated with building orientation on its site. It also involves the use of building components such as windows, insulation, equipment, and heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems. More insulation and energy-efficient windows, for example, allows builders to use smaller heating and cooling equipment and reduced or eliminated ductwork. Even more importantly, we can design buildings where operation can be monitored, controlled, and faults detected and analyzed automatically. For large commercial buildings, such systems (which are currently under development) have the potential to create significant energy savings as well as other operational benefits.

Researchers estimate an average savings of 40% for integrated building design.

Reduced Power Loss


Improving the energy efficiency of appliances and equipment can result in reduced energy consumption in the range of 10 to 70%, with the most typical savings in the 30% to 40% range. Advanced technologies in refrigerator/freezers, washers and dryers, electric water heaters, and residential lighting in the US is estimated to save 3.35 EJ/yr by 2010. This will reduce energy use of these appliances by nearly 50% from the base case.

Standby Mode Losses

A number of residential appliances and electronic devices, such as televisions, audio equipment, telephone answering machines, refrigerators, dishwashers, and ranges consume electricity while in a standby or even in off mode. These standby power losses are estimated to consume 12% of Japanese residential electricity, 5% of US residential electricity, and slightly less in European countries. Studies show that these losses can be reduced to one watt in most of these mass-produced goods. The costs of key low-loss technologies are low. Examples are more efficient switch-mode power supplies and smarter batteries. A recent study found that if all US appliances were replaced by units meeting the 1-watt target, combined standby losses would fall at least 70%, saving the USA over US$2 billion annually!

Photovoltaic Systems for Buildings

Developing countries, in particular, are increasingly using photovoltaic (PV) systems in rural locations. These systems provide electricity to areas that are not connected to the power system. They also can help to reduce the requirement for generating electricity using fossil fuels. Usually these PV systems are used to provide electricity for lighting. They are also used for water pumping, refrigeration, ventilation fans, air conditioning, and powering various electronic devices.

In 1995, more than 200,000 homes worldwide depended on photovoltaic systems for all of their electricity needs. Between 1986 and 1998, global PV sales grew from 37MW (megawatts) to 150MW. Rural electrification programs have been established in many developing countries. In Brazil, more than 1000 small stand-alone systems that provide power for lighting, TVs, and radios were recently installed in homes and schools. In addition two hybrid (PV-wind-battery) power systems were installed in the Amazon Basin to reduce the use of diesel generators that supply power to more than 300 villages in that area. There are similar projects in South Africa, Egypt, India, Mexico, China, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Uganda, Solomon Islands, and Tanzania.

Recent programs promoting increased adoption of photovoltaic systems include;

  • the South African Solar Rural Electrification Project,
  • the US Million Solar Roofs Initiative,
  • the effort to install 5000MW on residences in Japan by 2010,
  • and net metering, which allows the electric meters of customers with renewable energy generating facilities to be reversed when the generators are producing energy in excess of residential requirements.

ACTIVITY: Infrastructure project

Choose one of the following research activities:

A) You are an architect who has been asked by a couple to design an environmentally responsible home. They have two small children. They have not purchased their property yet, but plan on living in your community and want to build their home so that it is energy efficient.

Put together a preliminary list of recommendations for this family. The list should include;

  • major factors they should consider when purchasing their property and how the house should be oriented
  • design features of the roof and shell for energy efficiency including location of windows and roof overhang
  • options for heating and lighting
  • other suggestions for use of materials

Include the reasons for your recommendations with cost-savings and greenhouse gas reductions where possible.

B) You work for Environment Canada and have been asked to create a fact sheet to encourage Canadians to reduce their power consumption by their appliances and electronics in both the workplace and at home.

Create a persuasive fact sheet to be distributed to places of business, residences in hard copy and to be posted online. It should cover a wide variety of actions people can take to reduce their electricity consumption. Include greenhouse gas emissions savings and cost benefits where possible.

C) Your school council, parent council, school administration and school board want to use alternative energy as a supplement to the conventional source of electricity for your school building. You are work for an alternative energy consulting firm and have been asked to make recommendations to the school committee.

Create a presentation that outlines the considerations necessary for choosing either photovoltaic cells or a wind turbine. Include feasibility, costs and benefits and a description of net-metering (assume this option is available from your electricity provider).

Leave a Reply