Energy and the Built Environment
The building sector accounts for over a quarter of global energy consumption and CO2 emissions . Innovative urban energy solutions and supportive policies are essential for a sustainable future.
Many of the different elements and aspects of the built environment have a direct or indirect impact on human health. These impacts range from emissions to the environment to indoor air quality and occupant comfort.
Energy consumption is an important factor in the built environment. It can be influenced by a variety of factors, including the amount of light and heat entering buildings, building insulation, the use of HVAC systems, occupants’ behaviors and climate conditions.
Land use changes can also influence building energy consumption. For example, increased vegetation can inhibit the rise of land surface temperature (LST) and reduce the urban heat island effect, reducing building energy consumption. Similarly, impervious area changes can alter surface heat capacity and albedo, affecting LST and increasing the UHI, and thus influencing building energy consumption (Adulkongkaew et al., 2020).
A number of studies have investigated the relationship between built environment characteristics and energy consumption. Some studies explore the direct influence paths and the complex relationships between influencing variables while others examine the moderating effects of built environment features on energy consumption. For example, a study of non-residential buildings found that an increase in the proportion of the area of buildings reserved for accommodations and services significantly increased gas energy consumption but reduced electricity energy consumption.
The building sector accounts for a significant portion of energy consumption in the world. It can also produce significant environmental pollution from air and water pollution to greenhouse gas emissions. Using renewable energy sources and reducing energy consumption can provide major benefits for the environment.
There are several sources of energy that are considered renewable, including solar, wind, biomass and geothermal. These sources can be used to reduce energy usage and carbon footprint in buildings. They can also improve the overall efficiency of a building.
To make the built environment more sustainable, there are a number of steps that need to be taken. These include minimizing embodied energy, recycling, and using sustainable materials. Additionally, designers can create designs that are sensitive to energy conservation and alternative energy use. They can also incorporate systems that generate and independently use their own energy and water. These methods will help to reduce the burden on the world’s energy supply and make it more resilient.
Today, energy is largely generated in large centralized plants and delivered over long transmission lines. But, as WBDG explains in their article on Distributed Energy Resources (see below), using local renewable energies can reduce energy consumption and increase resiliency.
For governments concerned with national security, energy security often equates to protection from energy supply disruptions at a cost their citizens consider reasonable. For most, however, energy security has more to do with access to affordable and sustainable commercial energy to meet basic needs.
A small body of literature demonstrates that people’s preferences for an efficient, democratic and environmentally sustainable energy system cut across cultures and nations with remarkable consistency. Moreover, behavioral energy insecurity — such as a household’s negative strategies to mitigate burdensome energy costs or poor indoor environmental quality — can be a pathway to economic disadvantage and health insecurity. This is particularly true for households already struggling to manage a volatile energy supply.
The energy efficiency of buildings, appliances and industry reduces the amount of electricity or fossil fuels required to provide services like heating and cooling. This also makes it easier to transition to renewable energy.
Efficient products use less energy than traditional alternatives, so they reduce emissions that contribute to climate change. They also help the grid operate better by lowering the load on the electric power system, which minimizes stress and prevents power disruptions.
Energy-efficiency improvements also improve quality of life by making homes and buildings warmer, drier and more comfortable. They can also reduce air pollution that causes respiratory illnesses. The financial benefits of energy efficiency can be significant, too. In a home, saving energy through efficiency measures can cut utility bills by as much as half. Energy efficiency can also increase the marketability of a home, with properties that are certified as green selling for higher prices than those that are not. This is known as the “multiple benefit” phenomenon.