• The High Performance Low Energy building is so efficient—as
much as 90% more efficient than the average structure—that
demand for power can be met, or nearly met, with readily available and
reasonably sized solar power systems.
• The High Performance Low Energy building always needs a backup—some energy from the grid in the case of the Administration Building—to
deal with times when the weather and the big energy demands (space heating
or cooling, water heating, and refrigeration) combine and conspire.
• The fourth ingredient is you. To tread this
lightly on the land requires that you are a part of the system, tuning your energy use to
complement rather than stress the High Performance Low Energy building.
This does not mean thermal privation or handcranking your radio—it
means learning a lot about how your home or office works, occasionally
outwitting the big energy demands, and maybe expanding your comfort zone
just a bit.
So, the trick is to stock your roof with panels; your home or office
with the most efficient and integrated exterior envelope, HVAC system,
water heater, appliances, and lighting available; and your family or co-workers
with zero energy savvy. You will have to do all three.
Here is what it takes to do each.
Ultra-Efficient Building Performance
Although most people associate the term zero energy with solar panels,
the starting point must always be the efficiency of the structure and
its heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) system. The way to really
fine-tune the energy performance of a building is to treat the structure
and the HVAC system as integrated systems, matching their features and
individual contributions to the whole.
1.The exterior walls, floors, roof, and windows – These are all
of the components of the exterior envelope. How much they resist heat
conduction (their R-value), how airtight they are, and how they are oriented
with respect to the sun and prevailing winds (particularly windows) all
are major determinants of energy performance. The building design, the
materials selected, and the quality of installation must work together
to achieve maximum efficiency. A key component of the Suwannee River Administration
Building is the Structural Insulated Panels—or
SIPs—used for the roof and walls. SIPs are typically made using
expanded polystyrene (EPS), or polyisocyanurate rigid foam insulation
sandwiched between two structural skins of oriented strand board
(OSB). The result is a building system that is very strong, predictable,
energy- efficient and cost-effective. Their superior R-value and air tightness
are essential to the high performance of the Administration Building.