Energy-Efficient Architecture and Environmental Design

Table of Contents


Energy Efficiency is a key concept in today’s architecture with its environment-friendly, low carbon footprint bias. One of the reasons behind this is the fact that 50% of all energy consumption in Europe is building-related (Holm, 2006, p. 247). Hence one of the main thrusts of modern housing is to make it as energy-efficient as possible. An energy-efficient home uses a minimum amount of energy. Since most of the energy is still sourced from fossil fuels hence there is a “direct correlation between energy consumption and air and water pollution (Piotrowski & Robinson, 2001, p. 161)

This paper aims to study energy consumption as a problem in architectural and environmental design. One of the largest contributors to energy consumption is heating costs during the cold months and cooling costs during the warmer months. The cost of keeping the thermostat at the desired level is often the single biggest avoidable expense when it comes to energy consumption. Hence technical measurements called U-values and R-values which stand for heat transfer coefficient and thermal resistance will be used to figure out how best to maintain comfort in the home while lessening the energy consumption resulting in cost savings.

Main Part

The unit shall be a one-story residential home in the (insert home city) area. A sample of at least 5 shall be taken. This is so because to study only one home makes skewer the data due to independent variables which are unique to that specific home. The use of one-story housing is justified by the fact that multi-story buildings would complicate computation not only because multiple floors require additional computation but also because they employ ventilation systems and heating equipment. Hence, single-story home is the best candidate for study.

The main variable to be studied is the overall U-value of the home and how this influences comfort and living costs. The overall thermal conductivity of the home influences the comfort of those living in the building because good thermal conductivity will allow them to live comfortably without having to constantly adjust the thermostat to respond to changes in outdoor conditions. Furthermore, good thermal conductivity reduces heating and cooling costs. Thermal conductivity also has the additional advantage of being relatively easy to measure. The only inputs required are the type and thickness of materials that comprise the walls, roof, and floor of the building. Once the U-value of the building surfaces are determined the only additional input needed is the size of the surfaces and the overall size of the building.

An energy-efficient house applies both in the winter, when the occupants use energy to keep the house warm, and in the summer when energy is conversely used to keep the building cool. Hence, heat flow into and out of the building is one area where a building can be redesigned to lessen energy consumption. Order to calculate the heat flows of a house accurately requires very complex equations to determine the temperatures and hourly energy consumptions. Hence, it is simpler to assume that heat flow is directly proportional to a corresponding difference. Hence the formula for heat flux is given by:

  • q is the heat flux or heat change in Watts per square meter or (W/m2)
  • h is the heat transfer coefficient in W/m2.K
  • T1 and T2 are the driving temperatures in degrees Celsius °C

Stated otherwise Heat flow is directly proportional to a heat transfer coefficient and a driving temperature difference. Since driving temperature is seasonal (T1 and T2 change depending on the season), the analyzing the heat transfer coefficient or U-value is optimal method of upgrading energy efficiency of the building and reducing its energy consumption. The best formula for this is:

Where U is the U-Value or Overall thermal conductivity and Teo and Tei are outside and inside environmental temperatures. These environmental temperatures are defined from a combination of air and surface temperatures

If the type of fabric and its area are known the total heat loss can be determined by the formula

The U-values are measured in W/m2.K or Watts per square meter per degree and this measure is heavily dependent on the fundamental thermal conductivity and thickness of each layer of material in the fabric as well as the presence of any cavities. It is this parameter that is most significant when comparing the insulation properties of a wall, window, roof, and floor design. Depending on the area where the building is to be located the bias for minimum allowable U-values can focus on conservation of energy (such as in the UK), or dissipation of heat energy (such as in desert areas like Arizona).

One example of a highly efficient improvement is the introduction of mineral fiber insulation into the air cavity common in pre-1990s homes. This is because the R-value or thermal resistance of Air is just 0.18 m2K/W versus 1.67 m2K/W for mineral fiber. While the aggregate R-values of the entire wall, walls typically have concrete and other materials as well, must be taken to determine the U-value of a wall it is safe to say that mineral fiber will improve the thermal resistance of the wall by a factor of 9 over a bare air cavity.

Simply put the U-value of a building surface where it is the walls, roof or floor is an important unit of measure for improving the energy efficiency of a building and reducing its energy consumption. U-value analysis is important in making effective recommendations. Improvements in the energy efficiency of the building will reduce energy consumption and reduce the carbon footprint of the building. Hence making it more environment friendly and more cost-effective for the user.


In conclusion, it can be stated that energy consumption is an important aspect of 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. Comfort and energy conservation can best be harmonized by choosing building materials with high thermal resistance or R-values to form buildings with low overall thermal conductivity or U-values. A building with a low U-value will be able to retain heat or keep heat out better. Hence will be more comfortable than a similar building with a high U-value. Energy conservation occurs in such a building because less energy will be needed to keep the internal temperature at the desired comfort level. Since there is less energy being consumed the building owners will also save money from heating or cooling costs. Finally, cost-efficiency is also achieved by employing low U-value building materials balanced between the cost of employing them and the total savings they can provide


Baker, N., & Steemers, K. (2000). Energy and environment in architecture : a technical design guide. New York: E&FN Spon.

Demkin, J. A., & American Institute of Architects. (2008). The architect’s handbook of professional practice (14th ed.). Hoboken: Wiley.

Holm, I. (2006). Ideas and beliefs in architecture and industrial design : how attitudes, orientations, and underlying assumptions shape the built environment. Ivar Holm.

Piotrowski, A., & Robinson, J. W. (2001). The discipline of architecture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Smith, P. F. (2001). Architecture in a climate of change : a guide to sustainable design. Oxford ; Boston: Architectural Press.

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