Well-being: Is energy efficiency enough?
Demands for saving energy have merged during past years and have reached all countries and industries in the world. Reason for this is natural. To stop- or just slow down- the global climate change, it is an absolute must to limit the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. A great portion of greenhouse gases is released by burning fossil fuels.
The built environment is a big contributor to this development. It is calculated that 40 % of all energy used in European Union is being used by the construction industry. Therefore it has been considered a necessity to dramatically reduce the energy use also in this sector. In this global race towards a net-zero-energy-construction it is very easy to lose the sight of the forest from the trees. Buildings are made for people. Their purpose is to protect people from the effects of outdoor climate and also of some special factors, like the hazardous fine-particles released by traffic, or smoke created by forest fires, as we frequently experience here in Finland.
By focusing only on saving energy it is dramatically easy to create huge problems for the occupants of buildings by compromising and decreasing the quality of indoor environment. Energy efficiency and human wellbeing in buildings have to be managed in balance. The cost of poor indoor environment creates health problems and decreases the productivity of work and can easily surpass the monetary gains achieved in saving the energy cost. The end-user wellbeing has often been put on a backburner in the construction industry, partly due to a complicated delivery process of buildings. Putting the whole industry's common customer, the human being, in the focus will create new competitiveness and global business opportunities for all.
Energy-efficiency itself is never enough as a goal!