Comparing the energy efficiency of 'Esky' buildings
Years ago I attended a training course in the conference centre of a large hotel right on the beachfront. The food was pretty good but the conference room felt a bit like a dungeon! There were no windows and one of the presenters had this cruel theory that making the air conditioning extra cold would ensure no-one fell asleep during the after-lunch sessions.
A few years later I attended another conference at a different venue only 100 m from the ocean. In contrast, this venue had windows looking out to the ocean and we could enjoy the fresh ocean breezes.
These two different conference venues do a pretty good job of illustrating two of the main schools of thought regarding the best way to design energy efficient buildings. The first school of thought is sometimes called the ‘Esky’ approach where buildings are tightly sealed and well insulated to improve the efficiency of the air conditioning systems (just like ice boxes seal tightly and are well insulated to keep the ice frozen). Because windows are generally small, or of a type that does not open, these buildings generally require the air conditioning systems to run whenever the building is occupied. Situations where the ‘Esky’ approach is the most sensible building design includes city centres and industrial areas where the combination of noise and air pollution make natural ventilation impractical.
The other approach is known as ‘passive design’ and includes close attention being paid to things like shading, adjusting the building’s orientation and maximising natural ventilation so that the building is naturally comfortable. Passive design can still incorporate air conditioning systems for use during extreme weather but good design can minimise the frequency of air conditioning being required.
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