As building designers and engineers we know sustainable building is both environmentally and economically responsible. However, this article explores how builders and property developers can cost effectively pass on the savings to new home owners, investors, and renters.

As energy-efficient building products have become more popular and affordable, it has become increasingly relevant to consider their benefits during construction. From a sales and marketing perspective, having an energy efficient dwelling can give you a significant edge on the competition.

Sustainable building products have a bad rap for carrying a high initial cost, however they are more frequently becoming price competitive with lesser performing products. The good news is, studies show that energy efficient houses sell faster, and for higher margins. There are also government initiatives for businesses that support the use of energy efficient products, mitigating the risk of poor cash flow and reduced bottom line. The return on investment when using sustainable products is typically high for both the seller and for the end user.

Get the most bang for your buck by combining products

The top three energy leechers according to South Australian government data, are:

Heating/Cooling – 42%

Water Heating – 18%

Lighting – 5%

Combining different sustainable products significantly increases their effectiveness, which leads to overall potential savings of 5% – 30%[1].  Here are some examples of sustainable building products that complement each other:

Lighting

Using energy-efficient LED lights is a powerful and simple step towards increasing sustainability while decreasing energy expenses. When combined with daylight sensors and solar power, they become nearly cost neutral.

Daylight sensors detect natural light levels and automatically adjust or turn off artificial lighting as needed. This conveniently avoids redundant lighting of rooms that are already brightly lit by sunlight, and saves a lot of energy. Savings of 80%[2] have been measured in apartment building corridors. LED lights use relatively little energy even when turned on to their maximum capacity, but daylight sensors can reduce energy expenses even further.

Solar Water Heating and battery backup

Typically employing the use solar hot water systems reduces energy costs by 15%. With reduced energy demands from heating and lighting, it becomes much more reasonable to rely at least partially on solar power for energy needs. By using a battery-powered backup system, you can reduce or eliminate your reliance on the grid while maintaining a consistent, black-out proof energy supply.

Heating and Cooling

A variety of products are available to help reduce costs and energy needs for climate control. Used together, these products greatly enhance a building’s ability to stay comfortably cool in the summer and warm in the winter without the need for large energy inputs.

Heat naturally transfers from a warmer space to a cooler space. Thus, in summer heat wants to flow from the hot exterior of your home to the cooler interior, and in winter the heat from inside your warm home tries to escape to the cold exteriors. Thermally broken windows are designed to stop this transfer. The thermal break works with double (or even triple) glazing by providing an insulating barrier within the frame minimising the transfer of heat via the frame. Door and windows that are not thermally broken are responsible for 50% of heat transfer in buildings. Using thermal glazing film further increases insulation by reflecting heat back towards its source.

External solar shading further reduces heat transfer through windows by blocking up to 90% of the sun’s radiation before it can reach the heat-conducting glass. Shades are available in various levels of transparency, so you provide a measure of heat protection while maintaining views.

As energy efficient building continues to gain popularity, it’s important to consider all of your options when designing a building that will last into the future without requiring expensive retrofits or upgrades. By combining different sustainable products, you can maximize the effectiveness of each product, thus adding long-term value for your initial investment.

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