Design specifications can dramatically affect the energy efficiency of a building.  Once the building 
has been designed and goes out to bid, contractors will stick as close to your specs as possible.  
Many times, saving energy simply means going beyond what the code requires and specifying 
products or specific construction methods.

The Roof
The roof is the fifth wall of the building envelope that takes the brunt of the weather:  sun, rain, 
wind, and snow all affect how hard the heating and cooling equipment work to keep the occupants 
comfortable and productive.  Many roofing manufacturers offer reflective or energy-efficient materials.
A common spec to prevent ice damming in heavy snow-load areas is a double-batten system on steep-slope roof applications.  A double-batten system applied over the roofing felt raises the roofing material, typically tile or metal, slightly off the roof deck.  This batten system is left open at the eaves (with a mesh bird-stop) and open at the top with a ridge-vent system.  This allows an insulating layer of air to circulate between the roof material and the roof deck preventing ice dams at the eaves.  This can keep a home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Windows and doors are a huge source of building energy loss.  Not all areas of the West require double-pane windows, but that shouldn’t stop them from being specified.  What about triple-pane windows?  And don’t forget window tinting.
Some manufacturer’s doors transfer heat/cold quicker than others.  Don’t stop at the design of the door; look at the energy specs of the product being considered.  All manufacturers of windows and doors supply figures on their energy efficiency, it just takes some research.

Upgrading the insulation is probably one of the easiest and most obvious energy-saving decisions to make.  Insulation material is cheap in the overall cost of a building.  Simply specifying a higher R-value than code requires, both in the attic and walls, may cost a little more now but will pay for itself in lower utility bills for years to come.

Never underestimate the effect trees, bushes, and lawns have on the overall temperature of the building.  You’ve felt it yourself every time you drive by a golf course.  It’s dramatically cooler next to the grass and trees.  A building that is surrounded by trees and lush landscaping will be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Our office in Reno is located in an older portion of town surrounded by mature trees and landscaping.  We have professional weather monitoring equipment on the building.  Despite the fact that we are the same elevation and only a few miles from where the official city temperature is recorded, our building always records 7° to 10° cooler in the summer and 3° to 5° warmer in the winter.

The time to consider energy efficiency is during the initial design stages.  Going beyond minimum code requirements will help decrease our dependency on foreign oil and save your client money in the long run.

Marcus Dodson
editor & publisher
Design for Savings
Saving Your Clients Money by 
Specifying Energy-Efficient Products