Buildings & Energy Efficiency: 101

Everything we do, from turning on a light switch to commuting to work, relies on energy. It is necessary to be aware of our energy usage and its sources as our decisions and actions have environmental, economic, and social impacts.

Renewable vs. Non-renewable Energy

Currently, the United States heavily relies on non-renewable sources of energy such as coal, oil, and natural gas. These sources are deemed non-renewable because they are finite and are being used at a faster rate than they can be replenished. On the other hand, renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, and hydropower are able to regenerate readily as they do not require hundreds to thousands of years to replenish. Renewable sources of energy have recently become increasingly popular because they are inexhaustible, have a lessened carbon footprint compared to non-renewables, and are becoming more affordable.

Buildings and Energy Demands

Buildings are often at the forefront of energy issues since they have a high energy consumption rate, accounting for up to 50% of energy use and 72% of electricity consumption, mostly for heating and cooling purposes. However, not all buildings are created equal. Buildings that are designed to be energy efficient on average have a 24% lower energy demand. Monitoring and designing a building to be energy efficient can provide benefits such as:

  • Cost savings from reduced utility costs
  • Lessened environmental impacts
  • Occupant education, as occupants become aware and learn to limit their own energy use

How Are Buildings Designed To Be Efficient?

Certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) provide a framework on how to address energy efficiency. Common approaches to reducing energy demand include:

  • Sizing the building according to the intended purpose. It is too energy intensive to heat or cool a building that is larger than it needs to be.
  • Using free energy such as daylight, natural ventilation, and solar energy.
  • Insulating the building adequately to prevent energy loss.
  • Monitoring energy consumption.

Going Beyond Demand Reduction

The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) is one of the pioneers in helping create buildings that not only focus on mitigating the impacts of buildings on the environment but also on regenerating the environment. ILFI envisions buildings that interact with their environments just as a flower would: providing its entire energy demand on-site, having a healthy relationship with the environment, and being beautiful enough to inspire.

One of the ILFI’s programs is the Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous green building certification to date. The Living Building Challenge addresses energy by requiring its buildings to:

  • Supply 105% of their energy demand (net annual) on-site by renewable sources.
  • Commit to resilience by providing on-site storage.

A Living Building Challenge certified project must also meet other requirements such as addressing water, materials, equity, and health. For projects looking to specifically address energy, ILFI also offers the Zero Energy Certification which, similarly to the Living Building Challenge, requires projects to:

  • Supply 100% of their annual energy demand on-site by renewable sources.
  • Prohibit any combustion on site.

The San Diego Green Building Council and Energy 

In addition to numerous programs and education on topics such as Net Zero Energy and Embodied Carbon, the San Diego Green Building Council’s Electric Home Cooktop Program was created with decarbonization in mind. Induction cooktops are the most advanced cooking technology currently available and the most energy efficient because they:

  • Heat only the pan and not the surrounding area.
  • Will not heat if there is no cookware, even when turned on.
  • Have faster cooking times reducing the amount of energy used.

By providing this program, the conversation can begin on both a commercial and residential scale to address energy consumption within our built environment. Anyone interested in learning more about Electric options in the kitchen, whether you’re a contractor, designer, or avid home-cook, can do so through the Electric Home Cooktop Program. 

To learn more about the program or participate please visit the Electric Home Cooktop Program (EHCP) Website. You can also find more information on the energy efficiency of induction cooktops by visiting the EHCP resources section.

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.