Ways Buildings Can Be Greener ~ Inoperable Windows and Efficient Lighting


Standing at two ends of the sustainability spectrum, inoperable windows (picture most any large skyscraper in any town) and efficient lighting seem to represent opposite ends of the conversation vis-a-vis sustainable practices. Efficient lights demonstrate the steps we have taken to illuminate interior spaces that ostensibly would be dark otherwise. However, natural light is a free, inexhaustible resource. What are ways buildings can be greener?

Choosing natural light over energy-efficient lighting

True, the sun doesn’t always shine. Buildings may need to be lit up at night or other times of darkness. However, the fact that light bulbs have become more efficient belies the fact that they are terribly inefficient. Natural light is the optimal choice when it comes to lighting a space. For schools and office complexes, the prime time for occupancy is during daylight hours. Innovations like daylighting tubes can bring natural light into interior spaces that otherwise may not have the benefit of “natural” illumination. Even though lighting may be efficient, it doesn’t mean it’s the most sustainable option.

The problem with inoperable windows

Ways Buildings Can Be Greener
windows on highrise

Inoperable windows are another problem. Recently, I had the opportunity to tour a number of LEED certified projects as part of the workshop I led, “Buildings as Teaching Tools.” Many facilities earned silver certification (or higher), but they had inoperable windows. These buildings were designed to minimize energy use, but they had to shut out the natural world to completely control and maintain balance inside. Large mechanical systems regulate airflow, temperature, etc. Opening a window can upset the delicate balance. Where does that leave individuals who want some fresh air while they sit in their office?

Green features are good but there is usually room for improvement

Just because a building has “green” features (LEED certified mechanical systems that maintain an “optimal” indoor air environment and highly efficient lighting) doesn’t mean they’ll perform that way. Leaving efficient lights on all the time negates their goal. True, sensors and timers help alleviate the issue, but it’s not enough. Being unable to open a window because it may upset the  building’s balance is not ideal.

Ways buildings can be greener

Yes, these systems have numerous advantages over older, less efficient ones that fail to take indoor air quality into account. However, there’s got to be a happy medium. LEED certification is a goal, but there is often more to do to optimize efficiencies. There can be a balance between an overly mechanized, sterile office space and one more integrated with the natural world. It is worth repeating that efficiency (by itself) is not the key to sustainability.

Environmentally Friendly Central Heating

Heating is something we all need and grumble about at a certain points of the year in particular. Are you fed up of immensely fluctuating gas bills or the feeling that you have well and truly been beaten by the big six energy companies.

Well your not alone, it’s estimated that up to 30% of households in the UK suffer with the predicament of struggling to meet their energy bills demands. In some extreme circumstances gas and electricity companies can even cut you off from the network all together.

Environmentally Friendly Central Heating

Upgrade your heating system to electric

Over the last few years a new generation of electric radiators have emerged enabling households to really take control over their energy bills and consumption. They work through utilising highly accurate digital thermostats and ultra sophisticated built in programming.

When we heat our properties we often turn up the heating without making a second thought. In reality we are actually turning the heat up for an entire household. For example we may only be occupying the living room and bedroom on an evening and out of the property for entire day during the week.

This is where things get clever, the built in scheduling system offers users the ability to input their requirements for every hour of each day, seven days a week. In turn this offers users the potential for the most refined and efficient heating system available.

On top of that they are constructed with precision digital thermostats that work through monitoring the rooms temperature, then switching off when energy is not needed. Simply turning back on to top up the heat thus conserving a significant proportion of energy. It’s estimated that out of a typical one hours worth of heating the eco electric heaters may purely consume just 20 minutes of electricity making them a truly powerful heating appliance.

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But what about fracking?

You may be overwhelmed or have cloudy vision on the arrival of fracking, is it a stable environmentally friendly source of energy that we can reply upon or a wolf in sheep clothing? Ok so let start of with what actually is fracking – Fracking is by definition the process of drilling down beneath the earth ahead of exercising a high pressure water mix immediately into the rock which in turn permits gas to move out of the well.

So what is the controversy? As we know fracking uses enormous amounts of water which requires transportation to the site at a large environmental price tag. Then there is the concern that utilised carcinogenic chemicals could possibly abscond and thus contaminate the surrounding groundwater. While the industry maintains that this only occurs through bad practice and is not an inartistic and precarious technique.

There are also beliefs that the process can additionally cause miniature Earth tremors. Only very recently there were two recordings of 2.2 and 1.5 small-scale immensity located in Blackpool, Lancashire subsequent to fracking procedure. A Professor from the University of Manchester voiced his knowledge that while miniature earth tremors are of course identified as a possible menace from the process, at the same time are vastly improbable to be experienced by human beings and highly improbable to cause damage of any sort.

Bee Beautiful Scenery – Fracking

What about our beautiful scenery?

Under new rules fracking licences are only obtainable for attractive locations under exceptional circumstances. Environmentalists insist that new regulations are not adequate. Currently planning permission could be permitted inside National Parks on the condition that they are in the public interest.

A Greenpeace spokesman made comments that the new rules have ironically made it even easier for developers to drill nation parks and beauty locations by means of providing communities secretary automatic rights to overrule local authorities that reject such an application.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth states: “Shale gas is not the solution to the UK’s energy challenges, we need a 21st century energy revolution based on efficiency and renewables, not more fossil fuels that will add to climate change.”

Ok so what are the advantages of Fracking?

Fracking permits the ability to enter troublesome to reach sources of both gas and oil. While over in the USA it has no question uplifted oil production and forced down oil cost. It’s even been estimated to have satisfy gas security for the following 100 years and has the potential capacity to generate electricity and a fraction of the Co2 emissions currently produced with coal.

It’s anticipated that through fracking shale gas in the UK could notably furnish energy demands. Having said that though a recent report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee outline while shale gas generation can conceivably assist the UK in energy supply security, it’s entirely possible that gas prices would not see a reduction to the end consumer.

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Contact your supplier

Are you struggling to meet your energy bills? In the first instance contacting your energy supplier sooner rather than later is by all means the best course of action to take, ignoring the problem and thinking it will disappear if you try hard enough certainly isn’t the solution in solving your utility debts.

Once you have explained your circumstances in relation to finance ask if you can make an arrangement to pay your accumulating energy bill off in a viable payment plan. Remember that energy suppliers must follow specific rules when customers are in arrears with their energy bills. By UK law energy companies must:

  • Supply you advice with how to pay off any outstanding moneys owed.
  • Provide you a suitable payment plan based on what is feasible financially for you.

If you need help or assistance or feel what an energy supplier is demanding is unreasonable you can get in touch with Citizens Advice where they will be able to offer your the most suitable support and guidance.

Remember that analogue meter readings are notorious for being inaccurate and are often simply an estimation so please be sure to physically check your meter reading and relay this back to the energy supplier ensuring that the bill is indeed correct.
Copper has been used for wiring for as long as most of us can remember, we see it in our homes and our vehicles, where it’s been used for decades because of its flexibility, ductility and high conductivity.

There are a few metals that are more conductive than copper, but these include silver and gold, so widespread use just isn’t possible. Copper also lasts for a long time, although it does start to corrode when exposed to the elements.

New Metal – Six Reasons why Aluminium is Replacing Copper

The days of copper are numbered, though, especially in the newer vehicles like hybrid cars and in the electrical systems of larger buildings. Aluminium is rapidly replacing copper as it has several advantages over it.

The first and biggest advantage that aluminium has over copper is that it’s a lot lighter. This is especially important in vehicle wiring, where lighter cars mean lower fuel usage. Hybrid car makers want to shed as much excess weight from their cars as possible, and replacing heavy copper wires is one way to do this. Every unnecessary kilo on a car uses more fuel or battery, so the lighter the wiring harness is, the more efficient the car is.

The fact that aluminium is so much lighter than copper has benefits before it’s even installed in a car or a building. It weighs 70 per cent less than copper, which makes it a lot easier and cheaper to transport and faster to install. Builders and contractors appreciate how fast and cheap aluminium components are to move about and use and are using them more and more.

Aluminium is also much cheaper than copper. Once upon a time, copper was the cheapest metal we had, but the increased demand for copper from the emerging nations like China and India, combined with global copper mine depletion, has pushed the price right up. It’s become easier to mine and extract aluminium, as well as to recycle it, so this metal is quite simply a better bet than copper.

Aluminium is also unaffected by political events, which can cause sudden upswings in the availability and price of copper. Most of the aluminium in use today has already been recycled once, so we don’t need to worry about it running out any time soon.

One old problem with electrical connections made from aluminium was creep, or the tendency for the connections to lengthen and change shape over time and under high temperatures. Special wedge-shaped aluminium connectors have been developed, so that when creep occurs, the connectors actually end up moving closer and tighter together, ensuring better connectivity than ever. This was one of the last hurdles aluminium needed to overcome to beat copper.

Another complaint about aluminium in electrical systems like Busbars was its oxidisation, as this affects conductivity. However this problem has also been overcome by electro-tin plating conductor bars. This means that builders enjoy the benefits of Busbar trunking systems made from aluminium without the downsides of aluminium reacting with other metals.

Aluminium is non-magnetic, and so it’s ideal for use in technologies and appliances, like sensitive or high-voltage electronic devices, that need the minimum amount of magnetic interference.