How to reduce the energy consumption of our buildings

Published on Thursday, 30 May 2019

“The priority measures to be taken by the residential sector are the implementation of heating control systems, the switch to more efficient heating equipment, energy refurbishments, the replacement of appliances and the promotion of self-consumption”

Then, depending on factors such as the existing heating in the home, the state of repair of the building, the climate zone and the investment required, heating equipment should be switched for more efficient options, such as heat pumps or natural gas condensing boilers. Heat pump systems are best for reducing energy consumption and emissions in a home, while natural gas condensing boilers are more efficient than conventional boilers and produce fewer emissions.

The next measure in order of priority is the implementation of energy refurbishments. Within this measure, the four most important types of refurbishments are window replacements, which can reduce heat consumption by between 10% and 25%, refurbishment of façades and roofs with layers of insulating material, or comprehensive refurbishment.

Despite the significant reduction in consumption produced by refurbishment (more than 60% heating reduction following a comprehensive refurbishment), another measure to consider is the replacement of appliances for more efficient models with an A++ energy rating, i.e., those with the lowest energy consumption.

In addition, the installation of photovoltaic systems on the roofs of urban buildings or nearby surfaces (patios, gardens, car park roofs, etc.) could be considered to enable residential self-consumption. An increasingly widespread option is the use of organic waste for biomass energy generation, which has increased from 3.2% of energy consumed in Spain to 6% over the last 15 years. The domestic storage batteries in smart homes represent a huge step forward as they allow the storage of surplus solar energy that has been self-generated during the day.

How can energy efficiency be increased in construction?

The buildings that are built and refurbished today will continue to exist beyond 2050, so it is important that we understand that what we do today is mortgaging the future of our buildings. This means that introducing sustainability and energy efficiency criteria into any residential project must be priority.

Some recommendations for city councils and municipal administrations include:

  • Defining action plans at the municipal level that require consumption and emissions reductions and air quality improvements to be achieved.
  • Setting a target for 100% of buildings to have energy certificates by 2030.
  • Launching awareness campaigns to disseminate information to tenants and property owners regarding the measures implemented in the building action plans.
  • Establishing a schedule for restricting the marketing of inefficient equipment.
  • Promoting the incorporation of energy sustainability criteria into refurbishments that are carried out in buildings as a matter of course.
  • Supplementing the Technical Building Code for new buildings to establish restrictive limits on energy consumption, depending on the climate zone.
  • With regard to municipal administrations, changing current electrical tariffs so that they act as an effective price signal that does not penalise the adoption of electrical equipment over other, less sustainable options.