An Investigation into Energy Requirements and Conservation Techniques for Sustainable Buildings
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Traditionally, societies use to design their built environment in a way that was in line with the climate and the geographical location that they evolved in, thereby supporting sustainable lifestyles (i.e. thick walls with small windows in cold climates). With the industrial revolution and the heavy use and reliance on cheap fossil fuels, it can be argued that the built environment has become more focused on aesthetics and cost savings rather than on true sustainability. This, in turn, has led to energy intensive practices associated with the construction of homes, buildings, cities and megalopolises. Environmental concerns with regards to the future have pushed people, entities and industries to search for ways to decrease human’s energy dependency and/or to supply the demand in ways that are deemed sustainable. Efforts to address this concern with respect to the built environment were translated into ‘green buildings’, sustainable building technologies and high performance buildings that can be rated and/or licensed by selected certifying bodies with varying metrics of building construction and performance. The growing number of such systems has brought real concerns: Do certified sustainable buildings really achieve the level of sustainability (i.e. performance) they were intended to? For the purpose of this study, buildings’ energy consumption will be analysed, as it is one of the main drivers when taking into consideration greenhouse gas emissions. Heating and cooling in the residential and commercial/institutional sector, combined account for approximately a fifth of the secondary energy use in Canada. For this reason, this research aims at evaluating the main rating systems in Canada based on the efficacy of their rating systems’ certification methodology and the weighting and comparison of energy requirements under each scheme. It has been proven through numerous studies that major energy savings can be achieved by focusing primarily on building designs (such as Thermal Building Envelopes) and Passive Systems and that rating systems may wish to incorporate such criteria more thoroughly and explicitly within their evaluation scheme of metrics. Hence, this paper will also aim at evaluating the inclusion of energy conservation techniques into the different rating schemes.