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Last edited 27 Oct 2021
Energy consumption in the construction industry
In very general terms, energy is a capacity to do work that can take a number of different forms, such as; thermal (heat), radiant (light), motion (kinetic), stored (potential), secondary (e.g. electricity), chemical, mechanical, and so on.
The term 'energy consumption' refers to the amount of energy that is used by a process, system, product, community and so on.
In the built environment, the term 'energy' is typically used in the context of generating heat, powering equipment, creating products and materials, transportation, and so on.
In a domestic context, energy consumption is often attributed to:
- Hot water.
- Cooling and refrigeration.
- Washing and drying.
- Other electric loads.
Sources of energy tend to be categorised as either renewable or non-renewable.
For more information see: Energy.
The total energy consumed by end users is typically referred to as ‘final energy consumption’. This is a measure of the energy that is used by the consumer and does not include that used by the sector itself in extraction, delivery, transformation, and so on.
Per capita energy consumption varies to a great extent between countries. At a rough estimate, wealthy developed countries consume 10-20 times as much energy per capita as poorer developing countries. However, energy consumption in many developing regions is rising rapidly.
The energy consumption of buildings, and the role of the construction industry to minimise it, has been a focus of government significant policy change and legislation such as; the Climate Change Act, Carbon Plan, Infrastructure Act, Building Regulations and Construction 2025. Several initiatives and devices, such as the use of smart meters and energy performance certificates, Green Deal, Energy Company Obligation, low-enery lightbulbs, door and window energy rating, and so on have been introduced in an attempt to reduce the energy consumption of buildings.
The energy consumed by a building throughout its whole life comprises:
- Initial embodied energy. The energy consumed to create the building, including; extraction, processing and manufacture, transportation and assembly.
- Recurring embodied energy. That is the energy consumed in refurbishing and maintaining the building during its life.
- Operational energy. The energy consumed in heating, cooling, lighting and powering appliances in the building.
- Demolition energy: The energy consumed in the disposal of the building.
For more information see: Embodied energy.
Energy efficiency not only allows individuals and organisations to reduce their capital and operational costs, is can also help lower fuel consumption and so reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and help prevent climate change.
For more information see: Energy efficiency.
NB The Home Quality Mark One, Technical Manual SD239, England, Scotland & Wales, published by BRE in 2018 defines energy demand as:
'The building energy provided for end uses in the building such as space heating, hot water, space cooling, lighting, fan power and pump power. Energy demands are the same as room loads. One of the outputs from the Building Regulations Output Document is for heating and cooling energy demand only, not for any other building energy uses. Heating and cooling energy demands are influenced by factors including building fabric heat loss, air permeability, glazing and shading.'
 Related articles on Designing Buildings
- Carbon emissions.
- Electricity supply.
- Energy harvesting.
- Energy storage.
- Energy targets.
- Plug load control.
- Power generation.
- Renewable energy.
- Total final energy consumption.
- Types of fuel.
- Ubiquitous sensors to assess energy consumption and wellbeing in domestic environments.
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