15 April 2008

Growing Ecologic Buildings

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Non-residential buildings are becoming the new frontier of ecoconstruction. In Ljubljana, Slovenia, a shopping mall has been powered with renewable energy sources

Reducing the energy requirements of buildings is an absolute priority in Europe. The energy demonstration project SARA has developed several public-access eco-buildings in France, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, UK and Uzbekistan. Sustainable architecture permits the savings of up to 30 –40 % of electricity and heat consumption and creation of quality environment for users of buildings.

As political debates continue to be fuelled by the question of energy supply and prices, there’s no doubt that reducing the non-renewable energy requirements of buildings has become an absolute priority in European energy policies. The SARA buildings (Sustainable Architecture Applied to Replicable Public-Access Buildings), like the University of Southampton administration building or the supermarket in Ljubljana, are all easily replicable, which makes them highly instructive. The innovative contribution by SARA to sustainable architecture is the exploitation of the interconnection and interdependence of elements like lighting, external structure, heating regulation and control, and comfort. This creates a high-quality environment for workers and an improvement of the energy performance of buildings. In Ljubljana, Slovenia, the transformation of a supermarket enabled it to reduce its energy consumption by a considerable amount.

Technological innovations such as thermal insulation, integration of renewable energy, regulation of the heating system and an optimised ventilation system allow perfect control of the building’s energy consumption. Innovative solar tubes are integrated that increase the penetration of natural lighting to all areas of the store. Another example of a green building is in Southampton England, where architects aimed for a structure with low thermal inertia. The result is a 30 to 40 % reduction in energy used for heating, ventilation and electricity. Performance data for each system developed in these buildings can be monitored in real time to insure proper regulation. Some of the data is also available online to raise public interest and awareness of the advantages of this type of architecture. The buildings are immediately replicable at a large scale in many locations; they receive a lot of attention from policy-makers and building professionals.

Many information requests are received from students all over the world for use in project work. The environmental systems used in the Southampton building earned it a 2nd prize in the UK Higher Education Energy Performance Initiative.

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