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Building Envelope

Category: Energy Demand, Energy Efficiency, High-performance Buildings

A building envelope consists of the walls, windows, foundation and roof and isolates the building’s climate from the exterior climate. The U.S. DOE claims that a building’s envelope accounts for “approximately 30% of the energy consumed in residential and commercial buildings and plays a key role in determining levels of comfort, natural lighting, ventilation, and how much energy is required to heat and cool a building.” Retrofitting a building’s envelope or designing a new building with the envelope in mind is essential to the building’s energy efficiency.  

Benefits

  • Increases indoor comfort
  • Reduces energy bills
  • Reduces carbon emissions
  • Increases productivity of building users
  • Can be subsidized with government rebate programs.

Challenges

  • Can decrease ventilation, increasing the risk of trapping harmful gasses within the building.
  • Expensive upfront cost. 

Impacts

  • GHG Impact

    Moderate

    Variable to how current state of building envelope. More emissions mitigated in less efficient buildings. 

  • Economic Impact

    Neutral

    Difficult to predict due to many variables including: age of building, quality of improvements, cost of energy, location of building, aspect of building. 

  • Feasibility

    Difficult

    Works well alongside other retrofitting projects. 

  • Timeline

    2-5 years

     Building studies, cost-benefit scenarios are typical before implementation is started.

  • Maintenance

    Low / None

    Once installed, an updated envelope decreases the amount of maintenance required.

  • Publicity

    That's interesting

    Not very creative, appears to be more routine, logical, cost saving solutions rather than a sustainable one.