It is apparent that the current generation is faced with a variety of environmental problems. Thus, taking the consumption of energy into consideration is highly important as conventional forms of energy production are usually interrelated with the increase in carbon emissions and other forms of environmental pollution. However, if the demand for energy production is lessened, then the resulting effects in terms of pollution will be lessened as well (U.
S. Environmental Protection Agency and U. S Department of Energy [USEPA and USDOE], “Features”). Given that global warming and its effects have become even more pronounced, most countries have started to focus their efforts on minimizing if not eliminating its effects. In this case, one of the potential solutions is through minimal energy consumption.
It is probable that since simple methods of telling consumers to minimize energy consumption are not a definite way to minimize energy consumption, the concept of energy efficient homes was conceived. Hence, the energy star certification was developed in order to properly define which items are capable of providing a set range of energy efficiency, as it began with electronic items until it provided certification even for homes (USEPA and USDOE, “About Energy”).
Therefore, since Energy Star has become a significant part of bringing a level of energy efficiency to homes, it is important to further understand it in consideration of interior design and architecture by identifying and assessing its main defining points in relation to certification, conservation, certified homes, and its implications and potential effects on interior design and architecture Label and Certification
It may seem that the concept of energy conservation and energy efficiency could be done easily through various means. However, the premise of having a home to be certified with the Energy Star label requires taking more parameters and factors into account. As a matter of fact, in order to be given certification, the home to be evaluated must be up to three stories only, regardless of the specific home type (USEPA and USDOE, “Features”).
Aside from the limitations regarding the number of floors, other specifications must also be met. For instance, there is a minimum percentage for energy efficiency that must be met or surpassed in order to gain certification; in relation to this, homes that attain the Energy Star certification have a minimum of 20% more energy efficiency rating than conventional homes (USEPA and USDOE, “Features”). In order to achieve such advantages in terms of energy efficiency, several factors are generally considered in building a home.
For one, insulation and ducts can be checked and optimized so as to attain its full potential; in this sense, minor problems such as improper installation and faulty sealing must be eliminated (USEPA and USDOE, “Features”). Aside from efficient insulation, windows are considered as a potential source of efficiency as well. Given that certain windows are capable of maintaining a sufficient balance in temperature depending upon the season, additional usage of heating or cooling devices may be significantly reduced (USEPA and USDOE, “Features”).
In relation to the use of devices, an important part of maintaining the energy efficiency of a home is through the use of efficient electronics. Specifically, the use of energy efficient electronic items such as energy efficient lighting and entertainment systems that are Energy Star certified lowers the overall consumption of energy even further (USEPA and USDOE “Features”). Understandably, the claim of being energy efficient cannot be simply accepted. Thus, the features installed in the home to promote energy efficiency must eventually be evaluated before achieving certification (USEPA and USDOE “Features”).
Energy Star and the Environment The discussed means in order to attain certification are all geared towards increasing energy conservation as well as preventing any additional wasted resources. In essence, if each and every home has efficient parts or structural components, then the benefits in terms of energy conservation are further established. Hence, the manner wherein the Energy Star certification allows for energy conservation relies upon the fact that there must be an increasing application and compliance with the certification.
In this case however, one must take into consideration the amount of homes present being a significant group source of energy consumption. In fact, it has been assessed from previous studies that in the United States, homes are held responsible for around 17% of the total amount of environmentally harmful emissions released into the atmosphere (USEPA and USDOE, “The Power” 3). The carbon emissions or harmful substances released are in general not directly released from homes as majority of them are derived from the production of energy through the utilization of combustible fuels.
In this sense, the greater the demand or requirement for energy, the more electricity is generated, leading to an increase in carbon emission. This explains the point as to why homes are a significant yet in a sense indirect source of environmental distress through energy utilization. Since compliance with the parameters and specifications listed for Energy Star certification strictly requires increased energy efficiency through the use of energy efficient structural components and household devices, then the individual home will consequently have reduced energy consumption.
When more homes shift to these energy efficient components, the resulting demand for energy will then be lessened due to the fact that the homes and the devices within it no longer uses as much electricity as conventional variants. Therefore, the main method or process as to how the Energy Star certification contributes to the reduction of energy consumption is rather self-explanatory as energy efficiency is a core attribute of Energy Star homes. Energy Star Homes
Homes that have acquired the Energy Star certification are either previously conventional homes wherein the owners have opted to shift to an energy efficient way of living or homes that have been conceptualized, designed, and built with the certification in mind. In this case, the focus is upon the homes that are built in order to attain the Energy Star certification. Upon planning to build a home that is Energy Star certified, it is essential to consider that the home plans are in fact in accordance to the specifications provided in attaining certification.
In addition, due to the benefits provided by Energy Star homes, it is believed that it will eventually become a significant factor in consumer choices in terms of home planning and selection (USEPA and USDOE, “New Home Plan0073”). Upon completion and verification, the home plan will also attain an Energy Star certification. Either by producing a custom-made plan or simply acquiring one through Energy Star partners or sponsors, it is best that the actual phase of building the house is done by Energy Star certified builders and developers.
In fact, there is a wide range of Energy Star builders specializing either in site built and manufactured home building procedures. Thus, it is possible to build Energy Star compliant homes that are either built through traditional methods or factory built (USEPA and USDOE, “Find an Energy”). Aside from the builders available for constructing Energy Star certified homes, there are also other Energy Star partners present who might aid an individual in choosing or availing an Energy Star compliant home.
Energy raters who assess the level of efficiency of a home along with lenders who allow for options in terms of financing are both present as well (USEPA and USDOE “Find an Energy”). As discussed, the resulting Energy Star certified home is characterized by efficient insulation, efficient ducts, and temperature efficient windows, having passed verification (USEPA and USDOE “Features”). These characteristics result in a home that is advantageous due to numerous reasons. As a matter of fact, the option to choose an energy efficient home leads to more benefits aside from lessening the overall carbon imprint of individuals.
For one, since less electricity or energy is used for the appliances and other devices commonly used at home, the bills for energy consumption are then generally reduced. To expound, the enhanced efficiency of the components and devices in the house provides a positive effect in terms of lessening the need to activate temperature control methods continuously which in effect allows the owners to save several hundreds of dollars in annual costs (USEPA and USDOE, “Benefits”).
In addition to cost- and environment-related benefits, the enhancements found in Energy Star homes also significantly reduce and in some cases eliminate the common difficulties found in or associated with conventional homes. Due to the balanced conditions in terms of temperature, air flow, and humidity in Energy Star homes, problems such as molds and mildews, excessive moisture accumulation, dust particles, discomfort due to temperature gradients, and uncontrolled paint damage are all addressed (USEPA and USDOE, “Home Problems and Solutions”).
Hence, it is apparent that not only do Energy Star homes have distinctive features in comparison to conventional homes, but such features are also in fact actually of direct relevance and of practical importance to the owners of such houses. Energy Star Implications As there are significant changes in terms of some structural components along with changes in the appliances, devices, and electronics to be used in an Energy Star home, it is expected that other direct changes in terms of the approaches used in interior design and architecture would manifest.
However, one must take into account that the general aim of interior design and architecture, which is to provide well-being, functionality, and aesthetics, is still intact even if new materials and approaches are used in providing design and plans for Energy Star homes. Of all the changes in terms of interior design, the one most significantly affected is lighting design. With the advent of advanced windows that are designed to be used and included in Energy Star homes along with the fact that energy efficiency is the core concept of Energy Star, the idea of providing natural lighting has been further supported (USEPA 1).
In this sense, unlike conventional homes where a vast array of artificial lighting solutions in a room is present, in Energy Star homes, the usage of such artificial lighting solutions is minimized in order to further reduce energy utilization. For example, in one scenario, instead of developing several floors, the architect opted to simply develop a single floor that completely takes advantage of natural lighting; in order to attain this, the floor plan was made into an elongated configuration so as to increase the areas reached by sunlight (USEPA 1).
In effect, the task of the interior designer was altered. Instead of providing the best locations wherein lighting is best positioned in order to cover a specific area, the task of the interior designer has become focused on how to provide complementary lighting and additional task lighting instead (USEPA 1). Based on this example, it is evident that the shift towards focusing on and following the Energy Star guidelines has indeed altered the aims and common trends in construction and design.
Also, not all areas and homes may not have the option of mainly relying upon natural lighting as the main lighting solution, since location is a major factor in determining whether there is sufficient sunlight in the area. In these cases, innovative approaches in the use of artificial lighting, which are present in energy efficient variants, may prove to be the best solution, and they can be utilized and formed into attractive fixtures (Gordon 3).
Even though it seems that in this case, the Energy Star compliance seems to act as a limiter in terms of the actions and choices of interior designers and architects, this is not necessarily so. As discussed, there are numerous changes faced when aiming to comply with the guidelines set for Energy Star compliance. Windows, ducts, insulation, and even the method of assessment are generally altered. However, the limitations set by the guidelines are not absolutely its only defining factor considering that Energy Star is focused upon the design and construction of environmentally sound homes.
In this sense, new possibilities are also presented to both interior designers and architects. For interior designers, the focus upon being environment-friendly may be further expressed towards the use of recycled materials, non-harmful paint, and energy efficient electronics in the completion of the house (Interior-Design-Tutor). The use of such is rather self-explanatory in relation to the theme of Energy Star as all of the examples provided are generally aimed in one way or another towards lessening environmental impacts.
In the case of architects, the advent of alternatives is also beneficial. In this way, instead of using and taking into consideration the materials that are both costly and non-renewable, a shift towards the use of alternatives and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood are also preferable changes in action (Interior-Design-Tutor). Thus, it is evident that even though there are limitations set as required especially in terms of energy efficiency when acquiring Energy Star certification, there are also numerous new possibilities presented.
Aside from being environmentally sound, the alternatives presented in this case also allow for new approaches in interior design and architecture. Thus, these new approaches are a factor in maintaining and inducing public interest regarding the development of energy efficient housing solutions which not only lower costs but also support sustainable living. Even though it seems that the current guidelines for Energy Star compliance are efficient in promoting a way of living that results in significantly less environmental repercussions, the USEPA and the USDOE have in fact begun planning future changes in the guidelines.
In essence, the additional changes and specified parameters in the proposed guidelines focus not only on the consumption of energy but also on other resources as well. For example, in the current standards, it is optional that certifications on air quality and water usage are attained, but in the proposed plan, these two are integrated and are required (USEPA and USDOE “Proposed Quality”). Conclusion The advent of Energy Star homes and the increase in public’s awareness and demand for this type of home due to its benefits in terms of cost and ecological footprint have indeed affected interior designing and architecture to a certain degree.
Aside from changes in terms of overall construction as exhibited by the focus upon the efficiency of the insulation and ducts, it has also affected other components of the home such as windows and lighting. Hence, factors such as placement, location, and considerations in building or designing are in a way different in terms of constructing Energy Star homes. As presented however, the changes towards a more environmentally friendly way of living as brought about by the aim to acquire Energy Star certification do not necessarily only delimit the possibilities given to interior designers and architects.
In several aspects, their choices have even significantly increased as new environment friendly materials and methodologies are becoming even more known to the industry. Therefore, even with the possibility of even stricter pointers for certification in the future, wherein not only energy usage is considered but also air quality and water consumption, it is important that interior designers and architects are able to adapt to any resulting changes and always consider that such changes may also be equated with new perspectives and opportunities.
Gordon, Kelly. “Update on the 2006 Competition. ” Lighting for Tomorrow – National ENERGY STAR Lighting Partner Meeting. San Diego, California. 1 Mar. 2006. 25 May 2009. . Interior-Design-Tutor. “Live Healthier with a Green Interior Design Approach – Green Interior Design. ” Interior-Design-Tutor. net. n. d. 25 May 2009. .