Substantial Energy Use Reduction Strategies for Buildings in Continental Climates

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Substantial reduction of energy use in new and existing buildings remains elusive in the continental climate regions of the United States. According to recently published data from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), less than 40% of energy reductions in new buildings have been realized during the first four years of reporting by the offices participating in the AIA 2030 Commitment, which is well below the targets of 60% reduction between 2010 and 2015, 70% reduction between 2015 and 2020, etc. Combine this data with the fact that the reporting firms represent less than 1% of the architecture firms in the US, that they are among the most aggressive adopters of the commitment, and that the adopting offices operate in a variety of climatic regions of the US, and it is clear that progress toward the commitment is quite modest. Energy use reduction strategies for this complicated climate, from hot and humid summers to cold and dry winters, as well as increasing frequency of extreme weather events prompting evolving resiliency considerations, requires sober assessment of the conditions necessary to truly realize the goals of reduced energy consumption and carbon neutral design by 2030. Design professionals have successfully realized substantial energy use reductions by incorporating innovative design approaches, including a variety of passive solar and natural ventilation applications, in addition to incrementally improving mechanical and on-site renewable solutions. Yet applications of innovative passive approaches in the continental climatic regions are fraught with difficulty. This paper continues a discourse on architectural planning and design strategies for substantially lowering energy use with a focus on buildings located in the continental climatic regions. Nine design decisions are explored through practice-based applied research between Judson University in Elgin, IL and Serena Sturm Architects in Chicago, IL.




Kaiser, K. P. (2015). Substantial Energy Use Reduction Strategies for Buildings in Continental Climates. In Procedia Engineering (Vol. 118, pp. 744–751). Elsevier Ltd.

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