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3 Ways to Increase Building Envelope Energy Efficiency

April 9, 2013 | 0 comments

The building envelope acts as the only barrier between the indoors and the outdoor environment. It serves as a thermal barrier and plays a significant role in determining how much energy is needed to maintain a comfortable indoor environment.

Here are three significant ways you can improve your commercial building envelope’s energy efficiency and reduce the amount of energy needed to keep tenants and occupants comfortable and productive.

Apply Roof Coatings

Reflective roof coating reduces solar radiation from heating the roof, which reduces total heat transfer and keeps interior temperatures down. These coatings can cut solar radiation by up to 50% when compared to an uncoated roof. Coatings with the ENERGY STAR label reflect at least 65% of solar radiation. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, dark roofs can reach temperatures of 150 degrees F. or higher; a roof with reflective coating in the same outdoor conditions can stay up to 50 degrees F cooler.

Install Window Film

The right window film can improve insulating capacity of existing windows. Window film can add as much as 92% more insulating power to existing windows. Installing newer low-e films, for example, give single-pane windows the same insulating performance as double-pane windows; it gives double-pane windows the same insulating performance as triple-pane windows. By reducing solar heat gain, window film keeps heat out of the building in warmer months, reducing the need for as much mechanical cooling while also reducing glare, eliminating hot/cold spots, reducing reliance on electric lighting, and maintaining views to the outdoors. Newer low-e films also offer year-round performance by working to keep the heat indoors during winter months.

Add Insulation

By providing resistance to heat flow, insulation can reduce the amount of energy necessary to keep a building warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Insulation’s R-value determines insulating effectiveness. The age of your building and its geographic location can help determine the R-value and amount of insulation needed. Insulation works best only if it’s installed in a properly sealed building without cracks or leaks. Adding insulation isn’t appropriate for every building, so consult with a third-party expert. For example, facilities staff in charge of a New York lecture hall determined that, even though this particular building wasn’t well insulated, adding more insulation wasn’t going to increase energy efficiency. Instead, additional insulation would hold in too much heat from internal loads like lighting and people. The amount of cooling required to keep up with these loads would’ve offset any energy savings.

If you’re not sure which option is best for your building, a commercial energy audit can help. You might also want to investigate rebates and incentives available in your area for roof coatings, window film, or insulation.

Have you made adjustments to improve the energy efficiency of your building envelope? What have you had the most success with?

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