Green construction is making waves in the commercial industry as advances in technology become more widely available and cost-effective. Companies are expected to do their bit for the planet and those who build green are rewarded with tax breaks, grants and other incentives.
Unfortunately, recycling waste paper and turning the lights off at night isn’t enough to earn these rewards, although it is a great start. To really make a difference, companies must consider alternative energy sources and systems. In this article we’ll take a closer look at four of the best advances in eco-electricity for commercial building.
1. Building-Integrated Photovoltaics
It may sound like technology found only in the wildest of Sci-Fi films, but photovoltaic is actually just the scientific name for solar energy. Photovoltaics convert sunshine (solar radiation) into direct current electricity.
Where the majority of buildings use large solar panels mounted on the roof, building-integrated photovoltaics are hidden as part of the construction. Photovoltaic materials replace conventional building materials such as roof tiles, windows and facades.
Many new commercial buildings are constructed with photovoltaic materials, but even much older buildings can be retrofitted with the same technology to improve their green credentials.
2. Direct Current Power
At present, the majority of us rely on AC (alternating current) power. AC is pumped out by the power plant to the grid and it is the most cost-effective option for energy companies.
However, AC is really inefficient because most electronic equipment in the home and in commercial buildings use DC (direct current) power. A great deal of energy is lost when AC converts to DC and vice-versa.
We’ve been using AC since the 1890s when it just wasn’t possible to transmit DC power across long distances. But DC is making a comeback, thanks to alternative energy sources like solar which generate energy as direct current. As a result, more and more commercial buildings are opting to reduce waste and save energy by using DC rather than AC power.
3. Electrochromic Glass
This modern material is also known as smart glass or electronically switchable glass. It is used in commercial buildings to create windows, skylights and partitions.
Electrochromic glass can change from translucent to opaque at the touch of the button. Microscopic ceramic plates are sandwiched between panes of glass. The ceramic is coated with a material that changes colour when zapped by an electric current. It uses a very quick, low-voltage burst of electricity to regulate temperature and control lighting.
Smart glass is energy efficient because it reduces the workload of a building’s heating and cooling (HVAC) system. It can also provide flexible lighting in the form of skylights, which is better for the well-being of both staff and the planet. After all, natural sunlight provides a much more pleasant work environment than fluorescent lighting; it’s also a lot cheaper!
4. Energy Management Systems
An energy-management system can help reduce wasted electricity from unnecessary air conditioning, heating, lighting and so on. These systems essentially prevent individuals from switching on lights and forgetting to turn them off, leaving computers on standby and using air-conditioning for longer than necessary. There are two types of systems; automatic energy-management systems and human controlled energy-management systems.
Automatic systems use sensors to monitor and regulate temperature and lighting. For example, on a hot day, the system will automatically turn on ceiling fans or will tilt the blinds to cool the space.
Human controlled systems actually help to minimise human interaction with heating, lighting and cooling equipment. Individuals must use a card reader to enter a room. This allows the building to respond appropriately to their presence, adjusting light, temperature and supplying power to the outlets as needed.
Contributor: Written By Alasdair MacIsaac, Managing Director at Spark Squad - UK-based electrical contractors, offering both domestic and professional commercial electrical services. Alasdair has vast knowledge and expertise in state of the art electrical systems. With a degree in Electronic & Electrical Engineering from the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Sidmouth-based Alasdair has worked as an Electrical & Electronic Engineer in the Offshore Oil & Gas Industry for the past ten years.