Globally, energy efficiency possesses about 40% of the GHG emission reduction potential at a cost of less than €60 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e). The significance of energy efficiency for a sustainable future is rooted in three issues 1) fossil fuel depletion, 2) Emission of GHG (CO2) causing climate change, and 3) the soaring costs of energy and water. Green Homes / Buildings are a promising pathway towards energy efficiency and sustainable development.
Green Homes are sustainable and environment – friendly homes with economic as well as social benefits focusing on efficient utilisation of water, energy and building matter, minimal use of steel, increased use of recycled material and reduction of impacts on human health. Green-building conceptualization expands beyond the building walls, ceilings, and floors and includes insulated constructions, site planning and land use planning as well for an inclusive Green Economy.
Why Go Green?
Green homes/buildings are structured in such a way that there is alleviation of the overall effect on the environment and human health by:
1. Reduction of trash, pollution, and deterioration of natural resources and the environment.
2. Efficient use of energy, water, and other resources.
3. Safeguarding occupant health and improving productivity.
Benefits of energy efficient Green Homes
Energy efficient Green buildings reduce the carbon footprint and the pressure of energy on climate change. Green homes improve air and water quality and also protects biological diversity and ecosystems. Also, energy efficient alleviates waste streams and helps in revamping and restoring natural resources. Furthermore, Green homes use renewable and sustainable non-conventional energy sources which reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and other degrading resources. The construction of buildings/homes of a traditional house emits a lot of building waste. Recyclability of building material thus reduces the negative emission on the environment.
Energy Availability and Energy Security
Energy efficient buildings help save energy for alternative uses like energy demands of housing sector itself. It also reduces the threats of political instability which could be triggered by energy shortages or energy cost inflation for households.
Better efficiency is an effective tool to stimulate economic development and boost national economic competitiveness. Improving home or building’s energy efficiency saves a lot of money with respect to the operation costs for building owners and the occupants.
There are some indirect economic benefits as well associated with sustainable buildings like better health and well-being and enhanced productivity of the occupants which leads to a reduction in absenteeism level, optimize life-cycle economic performance, increased asset value, reduced costs for handling complaints and less time and expenses for acceptance of sustainable projects by the communities. Sustainable buildings also promise other economic benefits such as alleviated costs from air pollution damage. Also, Green Buildings offer lower infrastructure costs, e.g., for avoided landfills, wastewater treatment plants, power plants and transmission/distribution lines.
Regeneration of the Built Environment
Retrofitting buildings and homes using energy efficient appliances and technologies for construction and structuring improves indoor thermal, moisture and noise isolation, and entail increased levels of comfort of living and prolonged cycles of property remodel, renovate and repair.
Social and health benefits
A UK study on a social housing renovation project reported some remarkable improvements in health and well-being, alongside Energy Efficiency gains. Also, such refurbishment projects from public health point of view also reduce public health expenditure.
Endeavours towards efficient energy systems in buildings and homes improve living conditions and the public health conditions, address the issue of access and affordability to clean energy and “energy poverty” and, as a result, mitigate social forbiddance and inequality. Energy efficient green homes minimize strain on local utility infrastructure and improve overall quality of life.
Increase in Resale Value
Energy efficient buildings and homes typically have prolonged life cycles, reduced maintenance costs, and negligible budget for operation. Green homes and buildings provide increased level of comfort, are quickly occupied for tenancy, and have lower tenant turnover rates. The natural and fresh sunlight, optimum temperatures, balanced moisture and insulation levels, better noise and non-polluted indoor air quality increase the resale value. And, homeowners benefit from huge savings on their energy bills while living in a home that caters to their lifestyle requirements.
Role of the Public Sector in Energy Efficiency
The European Commission’s “Energy Efficiency (EE) guidelines 2011”, adopted in March 2011, defines a more significant role for the public sector in stimulating Energy Efficiency (EE) measures. It furnishes the Energy Efficiency (EE) opportunities in retrofitting measures for public buildings, public procurement, and EE actions including cities and communities. Motivating masses for redistribution of their expenses towards EE products, buildings, and homes, transport modes, goods and services can help to minimize costs on energy and offer better value for money. Encouraging demand this way could facilitate fast development and acceleration of innovation across the Energy Efficiency sector.
Factors that Lead to Energy Efficiency Gaps in Green Housing
– Limited incentives
– Information inequality and lack of awareness
– Limited initiation, innovations, and investment potentials
– The rebound effect: a barrier or a benefit? (Where households or an economic agency may offset some of its Energy Efficiency effect by increased use of the service due to its increased affordability, which it would have gained in the form of an efficient technology for that particular energy service).
Measures to Expand Energy Efficiency in Housing
– Mandatory building energy codes/energy performance standards
– Energy Saving Certificates
– Increase in financial and fiscal incentives
– Grants and subsidies to homeowners for Energy Efficient appliances
– Tax credits, tax deductions on Green Building investment
– Educational measures and capacity building
Energy Efficiency in housing demonstrates a “multi – win” situation. The efforts embrace local, regional, national, and global dimensions. However, robust policies and building codes are required in order to promote and expand EE housing at the national and international levels.
Homes, G. O. G. (2012). Towards energy-efficient housing in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe region. UNITED NATIONS New York and Geneva.
Pacheco, R., Ordóñez, J., & Martínez, G. (2012). Energy efficient design of building: A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16(6), 3559-3573.
Popescu, D., Bienert, S., Schützenhofer, C., & Boazu, R. (2012). Impact of energy efficiency measures on the economic value of buildings. Applied Energy, 89(1), 454-463.
Zhao, H. X., & Magoulès, F. (2012). A review on the prediction of building energy consumption. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16(6), 3586-3592.