Across the world, people from all continents are witnessing the destructive effects of climate change – droughts, floods, wildfires, extended heatwaves, storms and crop failures.
When you consider this, alongside the rocketing increases in energy prices that’s causing many households and businesses to struggle with their bills, it’s clear that reducing the amount of energy we all use is now urgent – for both our planet and our purses.
One solution that we’re hearing mentioned more frequently within the construction world is the ‘Fabric First’ approach – changes that can be made when considering the design, construction and ‘fabric’ of a building to ensure it becomes energy efficient. In this week’s blog, we’ll tell you more.
Reducing energy loss
Did you know that almost two-thirds of the heat that’s generated inside a home is lost through the building fabric – the roof, walls, windows, floors and doors. Up to 35% of that heat loss is caused by uninsulated walls.
The exact amount of heat loss in any building depends a lot on the materials used and quality of the fabric, alongside other factors like the difference between the internal/external temperature and the amount of ventilated air that comes into the building.
Taking a Fabric First approach means thinking about all of these things and taking steps to ensure the building requires as little energy as possible while its occupants stay comfortable all year round.
This can include design choices which take advantage of any natural gains like daylight, making smart decisions about which materials to use (e.g. high performing insulation or windows), and taking the time to consider areas like how to reduce draughts.
Applying the Fabric First approach
If you’re planning a construction project – whether that’s a development scheme, a self-build home, an extension or refurbishments, the Fabric First approach can help you ensure the end result is eco-friendly and cost efficient. Here are three ways you can achieve this:
1. Solar gains
At the design stage, you’ll want to think about the building’s orientation and get a good understanding of how the sun passes across the plot during the day. By carefully choosing the position and size of windows and doors in relation to this, you can then make the best use of natural daylight within your building. Consider also using blinds to redirect the sun when this might be needed for cooling.
Good insulation in walls, roofs and floors can help keep a building warm in the winter and cool in the summer, making it absolutely key to reducing energy usage. Insulation can also be good for the acoustics in a building (helping to reduce the transference of noise internally and externally).
Some of the commonly used options include cellular glass, wool, wood fibre, polystyrene, cork and polyisocyanurate (PIR).
When it comes to maximising energy efficiency, heating and ventilation go hand-in-hand. To ensure your building has the best balance of warmth, cooling and good air quality, choose double or triple glazed windows and be sure to seal gaps or cracks around windows and doors. Using trickle ventilators (a component that’s fitted into the upper part of window or door frames) is another good way of keeping homes naturally ventilated.
Of course, there are lots of other ways in which people can use energy more efficiently after a building has been completed. Modifying our behaviours around opening/ closing windows and doors is a simple example.
However, taking a Fabric First approach at the design and construction stage of a building means less need for such conscious behavioural changes and lots of other huge benefits – reduced energy use, less carbon emissions, improved temperature control, year-round comfort, reduced chances of condensation or mould, less need for maintenance and, of course, lower costs.
Here at Sheriff, we work closely with our clients and suppliers like IKO, Axter, Fatra, Jablite and Eco Green Roofs to bring the right insulation solutions into the flat roofing we install. As well as offering great thermal performance, all are working hard to reduce CO2 emissions, including within their products/ manufacturing and in the impact of transportation.
Feature image: Freepik