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Section 1  Renewable Energy

Section 2 Energy Efficiency

Section 3 Environmental Management Systems (EMS)


Description:  This unit introduces the concepts of energy use in buildings and the ways that it can be effectively managed.

Author:  Gates MacBain Associates

Section 1 Renewable Energy

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you will to able to:
  • explain the alternative types of renewable energy.

Over the past 200 years the development of the industrialized world has been linked to the requirement for energy. This was dependant on the supply of fossil fuels such as coal, then later oil and gas. As society developed there was a greater demand for energy and awareness that the existing sources were finite and being used at a greater demand than previously envisaged, which lead to a realization that alternatives should be found and that existing supplies should be conserved. Together with the concerns that over consumption of these resources were having on the environment has forced society to look for alternative sources of energy.

Renewable energy refers to power generated by a renewable source so when the energy is generated, the resource is not depleted or used up but are naturally replenished.   Another advantage of renewable energy sources is that unlike fossil fuels they do not release carbon dioxide and other air pollutants as by-products into the atmosphere.  As the amount of fossil fuel resources on Earth decreases, it is becoming increasingly important to find and utilise alternative fuels. 

Examples of renewable resources include:
  • wind power
  • solar power
  • bio fuels
  • hydro-electric power (HEP)
  • geothermal energy
  • tidal power
  • Wave energy
Currently, renewable energy resources contribute only about 3% towards the UK's electricity supply. This is due in part to their significant cost relative to fossil fuel or nuclear power generation. However, as renewable energy technology improves, it is likely that the cost of these more sustainable forms for energy production will become much more competitive.

In order to gain a good understanding of energy resources you should visit the website ‘Energy Resources’ and work through the linked pages.  



  • Halliday, S, (2008) Sustainable Construction, Butterworth-Heineman, Oxford. Chapter 11.

Self-Assessment Task

  • Outline the types of Renewable energy that are available.

Section 2  Energy Efficiency

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you will to able to:
  • suggest ways that a building can be made more energy efficient.

The majority of energy currently used is produced by the burning of fossil fuels. This pollutes the atmosphere, contributing to global warming, air pollution and acid rain. Consequently any measures that can be adopted for reducing this are encouraged.  The use of more efficient measures in the production of energy is also beneficial in that the same amount of energy can be produced for less fuel, for example, Gas-fired power stations are more fuel-efficient and less polluting than coal and oil power stations at generating electricity. Though in most conventional power stations, only 30-50% of the energy consumed is converted to electricity. 

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) reuses waste heat produced during electricity generation, and can reduce the amount of fuel required by a power plant.  

Combined Heat & Power

The fuel efficiency of an industrial CHP plant can be more than 80%, and losses from electricity transmission and distribution are minimised by locating CHP plants at the site where the electricity is needed. This is due to the fact that during electricity generation, a large amount of low-grade heat is produced as a by-product. In conventional power stations this heat is lost. In combined heat and power (CHP) systems the heat produced during electricity generation is recycled rather than wasted, thereby increasing the efficiency of the system. CHP is usually only used as a supplement to grid mains electricity supply.

High capital and maintenance costs deter individual users from investing in CHP, and are therefore more likely to be used by the public, industrial and commercial sector. The main markets tend to be those requiring a great deal of heat, for example leisure centres, hospitals and industrial sites and processes.  Sewage treatment works sometimes use CHP fuelled by biogas, which are emissions released during the decomposition of sewage.

The advantages of CHP are:
  • The increased fuel efficiency
  • Reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (up to 50%)
  • Reduction of acid rain by reduction of emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
  • Cost
  • Noise
The UK Government is promoting CHP though it currently only provides about 4% of the UK's electricity.

Conserving Energy 

Through the use of simple measures, a reduction in energy consumption can be effected. This will result in the reduction in the need for energy production and reduced fuel bills. 

There measures including:
  • Use of energy saving light bulbs
  • draught proofing doors
  • increasing insulation of lofts
  • external wall insulation
  • fitting of a hot water jacket to the water tank
  • having showers instead of baths
  • not placing a fridge/freezer next to the cooker
  • lowering the temperature setting of the central heating
  • fitting of double-glazing.
Additional information on conserving energy and a background to the subject can be found at the Energy Trust website at the link below.



  • Halliday, S, (2008) Sustainable Construction, Butterworth-Heineman, Oxford.

Self-Assessment Task

  • Discuss the ways that a building can be made more energy efficient.

Section 3 Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you will to able to explain:
  • the purpose of Environmental Management Systems
  • how they relate to the design and use of buildings. 

Environmental Management Systems have an important part to play in the delivery of improvements in environmental performance, particularly in reducing waste and in the reduction of energy and water consumption. They help to ensure that data collection and monitoring is systematic and robust and in generally improving the efficiency of management processes.    

Systems can be used by organisations in order to help them reduce their environmental impacts, comply with relevant legislation, and demonstrate that they are managing their environmental risks and liabilities responsibly. 

Environmental management systems should be accredited using a national or international standard, such as ISO 14001, BS 8555 or EMAS. 

More information about environmental management systems can be found on Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website.    

Total Energy Management 

Total Energy Management (TEM) looks at the management of energy by examining the use of energy as a whole rather than as separate systems.  Its aim is to maximise the efficiency of all systems and to maintain that efficiency by continually monitoring and managing it.  

The process involves analysis, energy audit procedures, guidelines for energy conservation, financial evaluation and plan implementation. 


Self-Assessment Task

Briefly explain the purpose of:
  • Environmental Management Systems
  • Total Energy Management

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