Thinking different about saving energy ?

The way we Dutch think about using energy is at least a bit strange.

Until the early 1970s we Dutch never cared about insulation and building airtight; we had coal in Limburg, gas under Groningen and lots of oil under Drenthe, the cost of which was low, so who cares about wasting precious money on saving energy ?
Until 1973 that is, when suddenly the sjeikhs stopped delivering cheap oil and the price of oil and gas went through the roof.
Ouch, that hurted our wallet and suddenly we were wide awake !

The Dutch finally accepted the need for insulation and draught-control, be it reluctantly, for it came at a cost, and we achored this necessity in our building regulations.
During the first 2 decades we just played around a bit, using minimal amounts of insulation, trying to do it the cheapest way; it took us until 1992 – when the first version of the “Bouwbesluit” was introduced – before insulation and draught-reduction were taken more seriously.
With the introduction of the Bouwbesluit in 1992 also came a timeline for improving the energy-efficiency of our buildings, all the way up to 2020, when all newly built buildings have to be energy-neutral, so market-partners would have sufficient time to adapt to this new paradigm.
Alas, I must conclude that until about 3-4 years ago nothing much happened, for until then it was not really felt as necessary, since the old systems were still performing just fine and generating proper profit.

Now, the Dutch government wouldn’t be Dutch if they didn’t try to sell these costly regulations to the public under the paradigm “it is for your own good, we help you save money”… is it really ?
C’mon, would you believe your butcher if he told you that you should eat less meat ?
More than half of every euro paid on energy goes directly into the states deep pockets !

Let’s face it, the primary aim of saving energy is improving and preserving our natural environment.

Then, they also sell us the idea of energy-shortage, but that too is a hoax.
Every single day the sun poors up to 10 times the amount of energy we need on us and fossil energy sources are way from depleted, so who are they kidding ?
There is no energy-shortage, it is just that getting hold of fossil fuel becomes more expensive, its use is polluting our environment and the alternative gets poored over us in the wrong moment and in a form we cannot directly use.
Of course our government en big corporations know this, but they also recognise the business-opportunities that come with it, if only they could convince the public – yes, that is you and me – that saving energy really is the only way out of the mess we made.
So, saving energy also is about making money… BIG money ! And our private wallets really are of no concern in this matter, other than of course to pay the price for complying with all these new rules.

Is it a crime to make money on energy saving ?
NO ! Not as long as we are open and honest in the information we provide about it.

Should we then keep on building uninsulated, draughty buildings ?
Of course not !  But we should see our investments in energy-saving in the proper perspective, having the right expectations, to avoid deceptions when our private financial rewards are not as good as promised.
In the end, saving energy also brings us more comfort, better value for our properties, less dependency of foreign oil- and gas suppliers and – last but not least – a cleaner environment.

So, from 2020 onwards we are all going energy-neutral ?
Well yes, we could try to do that, but honestly, I think that to be day-dreaming.
Designing all new buildings energy-neutral is costly, but possible, but converting all our existing buildings to a energy-neutral level not only takes us decades to do, but also is way too expensive.

Nevertheless, we will abandon fossil fuel and that will force us to take a second look at how we design our buildings and installations.
There are both physical and financial limits to how much insulation we can incorporate in our façades and roofs, especially in The Netherlands, where the plots are small and every centimeter of space inside a building counts.
So we have to find an optimum between investing in insulation and draught-protection and investing in “clean” energy sources.
To our luck we do not have to invent that wheel, our neighbours already did, so all we have to do is peek over the fence and play copy-cat !

But maybe it is time to look at this energy-challenge from a different angle : if the energy we use in our homes is harvested on-site without polluting the environment and if the use of that energy also has no negative effect on the environment, then why should we care about how much of it we use ?
Thinking along that path, we may even decide to incorporate less insulation in our constructions and that will be noticable in our private wallets !

Even thought we should still consider the ecological footprint of the materials, solar panels and heatpumps we use, that IS an interesting line of thought, don’t you think ?

Cross Laminated Timber

Cross Laminated Timber – a.k.a. Brettsperrholz or Kreuzlagenholz – is made of small wooden boards, cross-wise glued together to form large sheets, reaching dimensions up to 22 x 3,5 meter and some 40 cm thick.

Main producers are Germany, Austria and Scandinavia, using pine from sustainable FSC® and PEFC forestry, a CO2-neutral, renewable resource. 

It has a number of characteristics that make it an interesting alternative for brick, concrete or even timber-frame :

  • Being a massive product, once it is finished with plaster it is hardly distinctable from the average stone-based wall.
    Such a plaster-finish however isn’t mandatory, the material can be used without it and as than provides a warm, natural interior atmosphere.
  • Like pre-cast concrete elements, CLT-elements introduce stiffness and rigidity in your building, no matter if it is used to form walls, façades or floors.
  • Weighing only about 450 kg/m³ CLT is some 80% lighter than concrete, allowing for lighter foundations and thinner floor-slabs.
    Large elements make multiple-span floors possible, thus further reducing floor-slab thickness, giving more interior height and/or allowing more space for integrating installations and ducts.
  • CLT in many cases will be produced on order and is CNC machined within a tollerance of only ± 1 mm, making the pieces fit snugly to form an airtight structure.
    A CLT structure can be erected in very short time – often it will take less than a day – using the on-board crane of the delivery truck.
    Only a few temporary supports are needed during erection; once the structure stands, they can be removed and of course there is no waiting for hardening and drying, so workers can commence their work applying installations and finishings right after completion of the structure.
    Being all-wood, CLT makes the life of installers a lot easier too; no need to drill holes, just screw it on… that saves a lot of time and dust !
  • Believe it or not, CLT is fire-safe !
    It may sound strange, but it is a known fact that a well-designed wooden structure preserves its strenght longer in case of fire, because during the fire a layer of charcoal forms on its surface that strongly reduces the impact of the fire on the wood.
  • A CLT structure is safer in case of an earthquake.
    The flexibility of the basic material in combination with its use in a large sheet-structure makes it better resilient in case of an earthquake than any stone-based construction.
    In the Netherlands this has never been very important, yet, since we see earthquakes more often these days, this certainly is something to take into consideration, especially when building in Groningen.
  • CLT raises interior comfort and helps saving energy.
    Wood has a high thermal accumulation capacity; a façade of CLT and wood-fiber insulation will retain warmth up to 10-12 hours, thus making day-time solar energy available at night and minimizing heat-loss during the day… this is the ideal setup for using “passive” energy in winter and providing a comfortable low interior temperature during a hot summer day without the need of (expensive) active cooling. 
    There even are elements of 364 mm thickness that are compliant with current Bouwbesluit insulation-rules without adding extra insulation !
  • Acoustically CLT provides shorter reverberation time than most stone materials, thus lowering the overall sound-pressure in rooms; this advantage will be felt especially with the currently popular “hard” finishings of walls, ceilings and floors in our homes.
    Also, due to its flexibility, outside traffic-sound is dampened significantly.
  • Not measurable, but not less important, a wooden environment has a soothing, comforting effect on people; many will favor the interior climate in a CLT building over the interior climate in a stone building. 
  • CLT is re-usable.
    Once it reaches the end of its lifespan, a CLT building can be dismantled into the original sheets again; openings van easily be patched and new openings easily created using a circular saw, preparing the sheets for a new function in a new CLT building without any significant loss of material.

In short : CLT shows us how to optimally use a renewable resource; it combines CO2-neutrality with circular use, super-quick building and a human-friendly built environment.

Does that make CLT the answer to all our building-challenges ?
Of course not !   Every building demands its own set of custom solutions, but it most certainly deserves more attention than it has gotten so far…

Want to know more about the possibilies of this eco-friendly material ?Just give me a call or fill out the contact-form.