7 Ways Passive Design Strategies Create Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings

published Jul 27, 2023
2 min read

In the past, property developers focused mostly on aesthetics or practicality, but nowadays commercial builders care about energy efficiency, too. But you don’t have to sacrifice form or function to incorporate this feature.

Here are the top 7 ways passive design strategies create energy-efficient commercial buildings.

Efficient Building Envelope

To meet the requirements for a Section J report, energy efficiency must be implemented in the very design of a building. This entails a building envelope that is well-insulated for retaining heat and well-sealed to limit moisture and draughts.

High-performance insulation materials and high-precision measurements are essential to create a building envelope that will maintain comfortable indoor temperatures while reducing heat transfer. And it includes everything from the foundation up to the roof  – not just exterior walls, windows and doors.

Building Orientation

Energy efficiency can be incorporated from the very start, through the building’s orientation. By orienting a building correctly for optimal sunlight exposure, you reduce the need for artificial heating and lighting. It is, of course, highly dependent on the location of your commercial building.

A tall commercial structure at a high elevation with very little crowding around it will enjoy more sun exposure than a single-storey structure surrounded by taller buildings. However, it will enjoy less shade,  too.

You’ll maximize natural heat, light and ventilation with strategic placement of windows. Of course, to avoid overheating, proper shading is also vital. This is why any commercial property developer who’s serious about energy efficiency must consult the experts to understand this principle.

Natural Ventilation

Adequate ventilation is essential in any commercial building, but can this also be reinvented to meet energy efficiency guidelines? Yes, it can. And there are several options for reducing reliance on mechanical cooling systems, like the conventional air conditioning unit.

Poor ventilation is a leading cause of moisture build-up that can lead to mould and mildew. Major differences in outdoor and indoor temperatures can also cause permanent damage to roof materials. Natural ventilation is the solution.

Everything from the building layout to the design of operable windows and ventilation shafts can address cross-ventilation and airflow needs. There’s also the innovative solar vents solution.

High-Performance Windows and Glazing

One thing that the overwhelming majority of commercial buildings have in common, is great expanses of glass. Passersby marvel at the beauty of these structures, but those in the know, understand that there’s a deeper reason for the large windows and doors.

All that glass takes advantage of natural light, while also enhancing outdoor visibility and thus security. But all those windows, skylights, and exterior sliding doors are also possible sources of heat loss and transfer. This is where the importance of high-performance glass and glazing materials comes to the fore.

Double or even triple-glazing and low-emission coatings can significantly improve thermal performance. Don’t forget about the frames. They also have an important role to play in insulating these glass spaces for maximum energy efficiency, as ill-fitting frames are a major source of heat loss.

Passive Solar Design

Thanks to the increased availability of efficient commercial solar panels, there’s more interest in this natural source of energy than ever before. However, to truly benefit from solar energy, you need to incorporate solar design principles into your commercial structure from the very beginning.

It’s not enough to attach solar panels to the roof. Sun exposure and quality differ from one season to the next, and one area to the next. A balance needs to be found between solar exposure and solar shading. And you’ll have to calculate the optimal placement of solar structures for year-round daylight harvesting.

Thermal Mass Utilization

Concrete and stone are not only durable and reliable construction materials. They are also thermal mass materials, perfect for retaining heat and releasing it slowly. Their popularity for commercial projects ensures that they also contribute to overall energy efficiency.

It’s very simple. The more effectively your building materials retain heat, the less artificial heating you’ll require. This is a major plus in the race towards energy efficiency, but also in cost efficiency.

Efficient Lighting Design

In a bid to lighten the load on infrastructure and reduce the costs of energy bills, the government has proposed switching to more energy-efficient lighting. Not only would these new standards be higher than current US and EU regulations, but they’ll also save UK businesses and households a lot of money.

Energy-efficient lighting fixtures are now widely available, for both commercial and residential use. This goes beyond LED lightbulbs. Smart lighting controls and integrated sensors set to detect occupancy, motion or available daylight, all contribute to user-friendly and hassle-free efficient lighting systems.

It’s wise to use a combination of all these technologies, to truly optimize commercial lighting while still reducing energy consumption. And with the government leading the way, it’s now easier than ever to make the changes that make a real difference to energy efficiency.