Energy consumption can be seen as one of the problems related to architecture and environmental design. In that regard, a confirmation of the aforementioned statement can be seen in that “about 50% of all energy consumption in Europe and 60% in the US is building related” (Holm, 2006, p. 247). Although environmental concerns are not restricted to energy consumption, having other aspects to consider such as sustainability, recycling, eco-regulations, etc, it is one of the most important. The latter is specifically evident through “direct correlation between energy consumption and air and water pollution (fossil fuel combustion being a major source dioxide and other noxious gas emissions, and nuclear energy being a common source of thermal pollution of waterways) (Piotrowski & Robinson, 2001, p. 161).
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In that regard, analyzing energy consumption as a problem in architecture and environmental design, this paper conceptualizes this problem, identifying the elemental concepts of energy consumptions as a result of design practice, their essential qualities, and their relationship with one another.
Energy conservation can be considered as one of the fundamentals of energy consumption in architecture and environmental designs. There are various elements of conservation and they include:
- Renewable – the use of renewable technologies and sources of energy is largely related to the aspect of costs and efficiency in energy consumption. Accordingly, with the development of society and the increase of energy consumption, the use of renewable energy sources obtains more importance in the context of environmental protection. Then main direction in implementing renewable energies can be seen mainly in the utilization of solar radiation (Smith, 2001).
- Cost efficiency – this quality should be perceived in combination with the previous one, where the implementation of the first would not contradict with the latter. In that regard, the aforementioned can be seen specifically in the cases where cutting the costs is set as a priority at the expense of increasing energy consumption.
- Life-cycle – this concept “envisions all materials production as a continuous and sustainable process of use and reuse, essentially the recycling of all materials design and production (Piotrowski & Robinson, 2001, p. 169).
This concept can be seen as one of the priorities of architecture and environmental design, i.e. the provision of commodity, firmness and delight. In that regard, following other elemental concepts, the concept of comfort should not be compromised, as the pursuit of comfort is “a basic drive in human behavior, evolved for the purpose of survival (Baker & Steemers, 2000, p. 8). The following one or more qualities can be seen essential to the concept of comfort, related to energy consumption in environmental design:
Providing thermal comfort – the provision of thermal comfort can be seen in relation to the use of renewable energy sources and maintaining cost efficiency. In that regard, this quality is achievable through determining the limits within which people will feel comfortable and giving them the opportunity to control them. Thus, maintaining thermal balance heat gains and heat losses from the body is an essential aspect for consideration in energy consumption (Baker & Steemers, 2000).
Providing visual comfort – the visual comfort is also directly related to energy consumption in environmental design and accordingly to the cost-efficiency consideration. In that regard, visual comfort can be seen specifically important when implementing natural lighting systems, in which maintaining the standards of visual comfort should not be compromised for cost reduction or low energy consumption.
Complying with health standards – health standards can be seen more related to the quality of air standards, in which “[m]any chemical and biological pollutants present in indoor air… can affect human health” (Demkin & American Institute of Architects., 2008, p. 608). Thus, in pursuit of energy conservation, passive ventilation might be used, which in turn might be less effective in supplying fresh air, specifically in large buildings. Accordingly, the same is true regarding the light, where designing the effective energy systems, mostly passive, implies using natural light and views to the outdoors, which “can help enhance physical and mental health” (Demkin & American Institute of Architects., 2008, p. 608).
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The difference between the concept of environmental impact and energy conservation is that the latter influences the environment through increasing or decreasing energy production. Environmental impact is concerned with the direct influence of the energy on the environment. In that regard, it can be stated that such concept is largely defined by type of the energy source used. Accordingly, the qualities essential to the concept of environmental impact in energy consumption can be seen in one of the following:
- Provides the least environmental impact during its implementation. A comparative chart can reveal sources different to those of the conservation concept.
- The amount of waste produced from its implementation.
- The aforementioned are considered in terms of the specific surrounding environment to the project. Different energy sources have different impacts on different environments, e.g. the existence of lakes and rivers nearby, aquatic life, etc. Accordingly, such quality is more related to autonomous energy supply sources.
Analyzing these three concepts it can be stated that it is important to maintain the balance between them. Accordingly, the essential quality of price can be seen as a confounding factor that can shift such balance.
In conclusion, it can be stated that energy consumption is an important aspect in architecture and environmental design, which is among the priorities when focusing on sustainability. Accordingly, the elemental concepts of conservation and comfort should be approached as mutually inclusive, which is also concerned with the essential qualities mentioned of each concept. Thus, it can be stated that there is an essential element that can emerge from the aforementioned theoretical model, the importance of maintaining the balance. The latter can be specifically important when analyzing cost-efficiency against other qualities such as the provision of comfort, the sources of renewable energy, and others. The elemental concept related to energy consumption should be approached as a whole model, each element of which should be analyzed with other elements.
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