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High-Performance Building Envelope

High-Performance Building Envelope

High-Performance Building Envelope

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A high-performance building envelope constitutes all the elements of a building’s outer shell that allows high-level control over different variables within the structure, such as the temperature, humidity, air, noise, and energy expenditure.

A high-performance building envelope system is one of the elements integrated into Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) design, where the main objective is to minimize energy consumption.

This article discusses the key attributes and importance of high-performance building envelope systems in building energy conservation.

Key Attributes of High-Performance Building Envelopes 

High-performance envelopes can be made of various components like windows, walls, doors, insulation, and other systems. Whatever be the components employed, the four key attributes that a high-performance building envelope must possess are:

  1. Performance
  2. Balanced cost
  3. Ease of construction
  4. Durability

A high-performance building envelope should perform at a superior level in functionality and sustainability. The cost for this superior performance must be balanced and affordable. The system must also be simple, elegant, and constructed with ease. It should be durable and must provide low maintenance during its life period.

High-Performance Building Envelopes to Reduce Energy Consumption

A building envelope comprises walls, roofs, windows, doors, foundations, etc. A high-performance building envelope integrates solutions for temperature control, airflow regulation, moisture control, etc., into the design to maximize the comfort of occupants within a given building, thus reducing the overall energy consumed by the building system.

An NZEB building creates net-zero energy. This implies that it must produce enough energy to exceed or match the overall building consumption. 

High-performance building envelopes contribute towards energy sustainability in the following ways:

  1. Provides an additional barrier against heat gain and heat loss.
  2. Energy-efficient windows reduce heat by 80 percent compared to uncoated single-pane glasses.
  3. Proper insulation to walls controls severe temperature changes within the building during hotter or colder seasons. This creates less burden on the A/C or heating systems.
  4. Airtight construction prevents leaks, hence preventing heat gain and heat loss.
  5. Building envelopes with technology to harvest solar energy help create sustainable buildings. 

Examples of High-Performance Building Envelopes

Some of the examples of NZEBs that have used high-performance building envelope components are:

1. The Unisphere, Maryland, U.S.A: The Unisphere building possesses solar photovoltaic systems, high-performance electromagnetic envelopes, earth coupled heating-cooling system, etc., to help the building function with no carbon emissions.

The Unisphere, Maryland, U.S.A

2. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Colorado, U.S.A: The building includes rooftop photovoltaic systems and transpired solar collectors to generate the same energy that the structure consumes.

3. La Jolla Commons, San Diego, California: The largest net-zero energy building in the U.S employs highly-efficient building envelope technologies like on-site fuel cells, low emissive coatings that reflect invisible long-wave infrared heat, and an under-floor air distribution system.

High-performance building envelopes provide the best opportunities when deployed on new construction since they can be built into the building. But its installation on an existing building demands improvement to the existing envelope and additional costs.

FAQs

What is a high-performance building envelope?

A high-performance building envelope constitutes all the elements of a building’s outer shell that allows high-level control over different variables within the structure, such as the temperature, humidity, air, noise, and energy expenditure.

What are the key requirements of a high-performance building envelope?

The four key attributes that a high-performance building envelope must possess are:
1. Performance
2. Balanced cost
3. Ease of construction
4. Durability

What are some examples of net-zero energy buildings with high-performance building envelopes?

The examples of NZEBs that have used high-performance building envelope components are:
1. The Unisphere, Maryland, U.S.A
2. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Colorado, U.S.A
3. La Jolla Commons, San Diego, California

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