Analyse how energy is managed by your institution and take action to optimise energy and water use and waste production. Remedial action may concern the use of infrastructure and also selecting a ‘green energy’ supplier. The next step would be to potentially exchange appliances for energy-saving ones if the ones we already have are faulty and invest in infrastructure associated with the production of renewable energy. A sustainable building has a good influence on the wellbeing of its users, as it has common spaces where they can comfortably spend time together. It is also well integrated into the surrounding natural environment and adapts to changing conditions.
The main goal at this stage is the implementation of practices making use of water, heating, cooling and electrical appliances more efficient.
Reduction of water consumption. This can be achieved by installing faucet aerators on taps and shower heads, which aerate the water, thus increasing the volume of the stream. This solution is currently installed by default but it is worth checking faucets in your building, especially older models. Aerators can reduce water use by 15-60 percent. Dual-flush toilets which flush the toilet with either 3 or 6 litres of water also help save this resource. It is important for the markings to be visible. If your organisation does not use water meters, it is a good idea to have them installed.
Reduction of energy consumption. Switch off appliances which are not in use. Always switch off everything that is not in use and do not leave electrical appliances plugged in on standby. Use power strips to plug in electric appliances. This way you will not have to unplug individual devices.
Controlling the temperature. It is important to ensure that the rooms are not overheated, which can be achieved by installing temperature sensors. Windows can be protected from excessive sunlight by installing awnings or external blinds. It is useful to install thermostats on radiators and take care not to cover them. With occasional ventilation there is no need to close the radiator valves. However, when windows are kept open for a longer time, valves should be switched off because the heat escapes through the window. A similar principle applies to air conditioning. When we turn on the air conditioning, we should close the windows. Staff members should be advised on how to optimise air conditioning performance or settings should be made in advance. Air conditioning systems also require regular maintenance, otherwise they use more energy than they should. [link]
Appropriate lighting. We should try and use natural light whenever possible and adjust the light to the type of work we do. Sometimes we need task lighting (e.g. for reading), and not necessarily general lighting. The maintenance of the lighting system also affects its energy efficiency. Let us ensure that it is cleaned regularly.
Appropriate waste sorting and reduction. It is worth taking a closer look at the purchases made and the appropriate sorting of rubbish. Make conscious choice of products in terms of packaging. The less packaging, the better. Alternatively, you can choose reusable packaging or packaging made from recycled materials. Choose products which can be reused and put them in appropriate containers.
At this stage, consider signing a contract with an eco-friendly power supplier and purchasing appropriate infrastructure, including energy and water-efficient appliances.
Energy from renewable sources. Sign a contract with a supplier of energy from renewable sources.
Energy-efficient equipment. These are appliances with high energy efficiency ratings. The highest energy class is A +++. It is worth checking electronic appliances for the Energy Star labels. Energy Star is a programme promoting energy efficient products. It defines maximum power consumption levels in three modes: on, standby and off.
Movement sensors. Lights (e.g. energy efficient lamps) are turned on for a period of time after movement is detected. This system works well in places which are used frequently but for a short time, such as staircases, corridors and toilets. Installing sensors in taps similarly allows for a reduction in water consumption.
Collecting rainwater. Due to climate change, we increasingly experience intense downpours, during which tens of litres of water may fall on each square metre. At the same time, a significant amount of it does not penetrate the soil and does not supply groundwater. Taking these circumstances into account, it is worth collecting and storing rainwater in appropriate tanks. It can be used for various purposes. The simplest one is watering plants in the building or in the garden. The tanks can be connected to a system that purifies the water and delivers it to the toilet. You can also consider setting up a rain garden that keeps the water in the ground. In this way, it does not evaporate and regulates the temperature and humidity in a given area (it reduces the ‘urban heat island’ effect). The garden can also be an element of a water playground. [see: NATURE]
At this stage, we recommend buying more advanced infrastructural elements supporting energy efficiency of buildings. It is also worth investing in them due to the increasingly strict EU regulations associated with energy efficiency standards. Renovated and newly-built buildings will be obliged to have a very low demand for energy.
When designing a new headquarters, it is worth paying attention to the criteria prepared by the Polish Green Building Council (PLGBC):
1. Effective use of resources, particularly non-renewable energy and water.
2. Ensuring a healthy and comfortable environment for the users of the building.
3. Responsibility with respect to the neighbourhood and location.
4. Flexibility and adaptability of the building, installations and appliances as a way to protect resources and save money.
5. Installing building management systems monitoring and controlling the appliances and installations to minimise the use of energy and other resources.
6. Minimising waste production and recycling.
7. Using environmentally-friendly materials complying with at least one of these criteria:
– made from recycled materials or agricultural waste,
– their production does not involve exploitation of natural resources,
negative environmental impact associated with their production, destruction or repair is minimised,
– during their production process care is taken to save energy and water,
– they contribute to a healthy and safe interior environment,
– they have been produced locally.
8. Avoiding toxic and otherwise harmful emissions (link).
Energy-saving insulation. It limits heat loss and building overheating. It can consist of thickening the thermal insulation or using a material with better thermal properties.
Energy-saving ventilation. Heat losses in the building can be limited by increasing the insulation, minimizing heat loss through thermal bridges or by adequate ventilation. In many existing buildings natural ventilation does not work very well, so in order to better manage air quality and temperature, it is advisable to use mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. It allows for a controlled outflow and inflow of air into the building, combining it with the heat exchanger in the air handling unit. Its operation can be illustrated in the following way: cold air, sucked in from outside, passes through the heat exchanger and is heated by the used-up return air which is removed from the inside of the building.
The heat pump. A system that uses energy stored in the ground, extracting heat from the outside air or using hydrothermal energy. The heat pump reduces CO2 emissions and produces no exhaust fumes. There is no flammable fuel in the building, so heat pumps are safe for users. Heat pumps require electricity. It is therefore worth choosing a supplier offering energy from renewable sources.
Solar panels. This makes it possible to produce electrical energy from solar radiation, it can work in conjunction with other sustainable equipment e.g. a heat pump. The pump can use the energy produced by solar panels. One advantage of such an installation is the fact that we can produce energy to run the building ourselves, which helps lower operating costs.
Greywater system. Greywater is waste water which is produced during daily activities such as bathing or washing up. As part of a greywater recovery system, water from the basin, shower or sink goes through various levels of filtration so that it can be used again. Such water can be used for everything, including drinking, but the method of filtration is a significant challenge. [link]
Energy-efficient server room. Air-conditioning systems may be upgraded to make use of the heat from the server room to warm up other rooms. Modern air-conditioning systems offer cooling with minimum energy consumption. [link]
Advanced control systems and automation of the power system. They make it possible to reduce the use of energy in rarely used parts of the building or optimise the production, distribution and emission of heat in the building. It is worth considering systems optimising the quality of air in the building with minimum energy consumption, lowering the temperature of warm water, controlling lighting by lowering light levels depending on the intensity of natural light and degree of use. The movement of sun protection screens controlling the amount of heat and light delivered to the building can also be automated. [link]
Wall colour. If you plan to redecorate the walls, you could choose light and warm colours, which reflect light well. They also optically enlarge rooms, giving a sense of spaciousness.