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Energy efficient buildings I don’t think so

Last week I was at a conference on energy efficiency, it was suggested that we should all operate our buildings as efficiently as possible to reduce the CO2 output.

The problem is the fact that the majority of the buildings in the UK are old and are not terribly efficient and would be costly to improve.

One of the speakers was highlighting energy use and came up with a fantastic measure of how good a building was. He used a lovely unit - kWhrs of energy used per M square floor area per annum. The recommendation was that if possible we should try to only consume 30kWhr/m^2/Yr.

I am a self confessed geek, I plot my energy use on a monthly basis and have done so for years so I went home and did some calculations, I lived in my last house for 3 years, it was a 1930s detached which was completely un-modified since being built. Over the time I lived there I had the following done, the steel windows were replaced with UPVC double glazing, the gas boiler was ripped out and replaced with a condensing combi, I had cavity wall insulation installed and finally the loft insulated.

So you would assume that enormous energy savings were made, the work above cost me over 20 thousand pounds to complete.

Unfortunately this was not the case, I managed to reduce my energy usage from 145 to 122 kWhrs/m^2/annum, still 4 times the recommended amount.

The problem was not that I ran the place like a sauna in fact it ran at a constant 20C throughout the heating season. This old house had a suspended vented wooden floor 15mm thick, this meant I was only 15mm away from the ambient air. The floor was old but beautiful so did not have carpets, only philistines put carpet over parquet flooring. The wind whipped through the place from one end to the other, escaped up the open chimneys and seemed to be everywhere.

So what do you do in a case like this?

  1. rip up the floor and insulate underneath
  2. put down carpet
  3. turn up the boiler and sod the planet

Option 1 is the best but very expensive to do parquet flooring is not cheap, I was quoted 7 grand for the work.

Option 2 is good but it was a lovely floor and I wanted to show it off so I went for option 3 just like everyone else would do, the problem dear reader is that energy is still really cheap compared to the alternative actions so like everyone else I just turned up the boiler and paid the bills. Until the energy price is really expensive im afraid convincing the market to change its ways is going to be nigh on impossible.

By Graham Hendra

Graham Hendra is Consulting Technical Manager at Spaceair