Energy Efficient Buildings

Among the options available for implementing energy efficiency measures in buildings, most involve either improving the fabric insulation or optimising mechanical and electrical services. Atamate Building Intelligence is an energy efficient building management system that can operate the services of any building type at maximum efficiency without compromising their function.

What is an energy efficient building?

A simple definition of a building is a three-dimensional space enclosed by an envelope made of fabric, which is used for a particular purpose. If the building is a home, its purpose is to be lived in. If it's an office block, its purpose is to be worked in. If it's a school, it's to learn in.

Whatever its purpose, any building requires a set of services to perform it. What those services are and how they work depends on the purpose of the building. For instance, a home needs heating during the winter, ventilation to maintain the quality of air inside the envelope, a water supply, lighting and whatever else is needed to keep its occupants comfortable.

An energy efficient building is designed so that the building services provide the necessary function, comfort and convenience while using as little energy as possible.

Building energy efficiency software

 

The Atamate Energy Efficient Building Solution

1. Holistic:

Atamate can control all the services in a building. Data from every sensor are collected in the same central hub link to hub page as the usage data for every service, so a single sensor can be used to control multiple services.

For example, elevated carbon dioxide might trigger the ventilation system but it can also be used to indicate room occupancy that controls lights and heating or, if no one is supposed to be in the building, it might trigger an intruder alarm.

2. Simple:

Atamate is simple to install, use and maintain. The installation can be carried out by any electrician on new buildings during construction or retrofitted to older buildings with minimal disruption.

Atamate usually runs in the background but can be controlled by any web-enabled device or by a voice-operated interface like Amazon's Alexa. The sensor and usage data is used to indicate possible maintenance issues before they are otherwise noticed, such as drops in pressure in the water systems or blockages in ducts. 

3. Affordable:

Atamate's installation and maintenance costs are usually offset by the savings in energy and maintenance costs. In commercial buildings, payback times as short as one year are possible. For a new build, designing Atamate into the building from the outset minimises both the capital and running costs.

How do energy efficient buildings work?

The key to making a building as energy efficient as possible lies in making it a design priority from the outset, optimising the fabric and the services for efficiency and comfort simultaneously.

Fabric

The fabric minimises heat transfer between the building's interior and the outside world. A comfortable temperature inside the envelope is likely to be warmer or cooler than the ambient temperature outside, so limiting the exchange between them limits the energy needed to maintain the internal temperature.

Modern building fabric is well insulated to prevent direct transfer of heat energy by conduction, and also airtight to prevent air flowing in and bringing the outside temperature with it.

Energy efficiency building management system

Services

The services are designed around the efficiency of the fabric. The insulation of an energy efficiency building considerably cuts the need for heating or cooling when compared to older buildings, but the airtightness requires a ventilation system to maintain air quality and to prevent overheating during summer.

Energy efficiency measures in buildings

Smart building controls

A control system like Atamate monitors the interior and only activates services as they are needed, as well as integrating the different features of energy efficient buildings so they complement each other. For example, building controls will automatically turn off an extractor fan if someone opens a window.


The more energy efficient the building design, the better the efficiency that can be achieved by the control system. However, a control system can still improve energy efficiency in existing buildings with poorly insulated fabric.

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Energy source

Because an energy efficient building does not need central heating, all of its energy can usually be supplied by electricity. Not requiring a connection to mains gas saves on construction and maintenance costs, and has the further advantage that generating electricity involves the emission of far less carbon than burning gas.

The building can be made even more efficient if it is possible to generate some of the energy it uses onsite, such as by generating electricity with photovoltaic cells or using solar thermal panels to heat water.

Building energy efficiency standards

Why are energy efficient buildings so important?

Services require energy to operate, which usually comes from mains electricity, natural gas or from oil. The advantages of energy efficient buildings are that by minimising the energy needed, they cut down both the energy costs and also the greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere while generating it.

In the UK, 25-30% of energy demand is domestic, largely because so many British buildings were built before energy efficiency was a design priority. Energy demand can be cut substantially by renovating older buildings to modern energy efficiency standards or replacing them with new buildings.


Energy efficiency is important enough that most countries have legislated minimum standards, such as in the UK's building regulations Part L. There also a wide range of voluntary standards, many of which are widely applied internationally such as the Passivhaus standard that originated in Germany and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard assessed by the US Green Building Council.

Energy efficient building solutions

Methods used for improving energy efficiency in buildings

Choosing the right services for the building will minimise capital costs and maximise energy efficiency. Many options are available for each type of service and the choice will depend on the location and function of a building.

Heating

Because the building fabric conserves the internal air temperature, energy-efficient buildings use a much more responsive heating system than conventional buildings. A typical design would install electric heaters in each room which are only active when someone is in the room, focusing energy use on where it will affect the comfort of the people in the building.

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EldEnergy efficient building techniques

Cooling

The best cooling option depends on a building's location and use. Passive cooling is usually sufficient for a home in a temperate climate, using a combination of motorised windows and a building design that channels airflow through the building. Mechanical air conditioning may be necessary if a large amount of heat is generated in a building, such as if it is located in a warm climate or houses servers. Atamate can maximise the efficiency of the air conditioning by using passive cooling techniques as much as possible, and by preventing the air conditioners running while the windows are open.

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Energy efficiency in intelligent buildings

Ventilation

The principle behind ventilation is to maintain high air quality inside the building envelope using the minimum volume of incoming air that needs to be heated or cooled. An energy efficient building continuously monitors air quality in all rooms using controlled vents and fans to replace the internal air only in the rooms where it needs replacing.

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Improving energy efficiency in existing buildings

Hot water 

In most energy efficient buildings, the service that requires most energy is water heating. Atamate integrates hot water production with the heating and ventilation to maximise energy efficiency across different services. Insulation of hot water pipes is another component of energy efficiency as it prevents heat energy being lost from the hot water into the building envelope and contributing to overheating.

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Energy efficiency in traditional buildings

How is building intelligence software used to increase energy efficiency?

Atamate uses sensors data to control all services to optimise the internal environment while minimising energy use.

1. Occupancy-based control

Heating, cooling or lighting an empty room wastes energy. Sensors detect occupancy in a room so services are only running when they are needed.

2. Behaviour-based control

Atamate can adjust the services according to what the people in a building are doing. For example, someone opening a curtain may allow enough natural light into a room that the controls can dim the electric lights.

3. Holistic solutions

The more services that are automated, the more efficient the building. For instance, the sensors may detect a window opened manually and switch off any heating or cooling to save energy.

4. Calendar-based settings

Temperature, lighting and any other settings for each room can be preset for a given time. For buildings that are not in continuous use, such as community centres or specialised rooms in schools or colleges, calendar-based presets allow each user to optimise the room for their preferences but switch off all services when the room is not in use.

5. Managing onsite energy production

Building intelligence can maximise the contribution from renewable energy. For example, an early morning shower can leave the hot water tank in need of heating before the sun has risen. Atamate can check the weather forecast to see whether there will be enough solar heat or if the day will be overcast and mains heating will be necessary.

How to improve energy efficiency in traditional buildings

While modern buildings are designed for efficiency from the outset, many conventional buildings are so poorly insulated that they require continuous heating or cooling. While such buildings can never be as energy efficient as if they were built to modern standards, placing the building services under control offers significant efficiency improvements.

Deep retrofit

A full refurbishment involves improving the insulation and airtightness of the fabric and upgrading to more energy efficient building services. However, deep retrofits are expensive and intrusive, and are prohibited in many UK buildings with protected status.

Methods for improving energy efficiency of buildings

Partial retrofit

Simple fabric upgrades such as loft insulation, window upgrades and draft proofing improve the efficiency of the building, especially when combined with placing the services under control. Atamate’s wireless system can be installed in any type of building to control its services.

Energy efficient building solutions

Assessment using building intelligence

Atamate's sensor network provides continuous input to a building's energy efficiency software, informing bespoke solutions when considering how to make buildings more energy efficient. Atamate can be fitted to existing buildings and used to find the possible methods for improving energy efficiency of buildings. A retrofit can then be planned around upgrading the specific services or parts of the building fabric that offer the most benefit for the least cost.

Advantages of energy efficient buildings

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