Shining a light on energy efficient livestock buildings

By Matt Belcher

In livestock operations, energy conservation is critical for reducing overhead costs and conserving resources. Often referred to as the “first fuel” in an energy management program, if it is not needed, it does not have to use resources to be generated or create cost for the user.

Three considerations in energy conservation in an agricultural setting relate to light and solar energy. In taking stock of current energy consumption conditions, consider solar orientation, passive solar design and the shade and light conditions that exist.

Solar orientation

solar-orientation-farm-buildingProper solar orientation can also provide glare-free natural light throughout the building, especially with contemporary design techniques such as light-colored surfaces, open partitions, and so on. Although it is desirable to limit Northern facing glazing, incorporating a balance of daylight from the North usually results in a more constant “softer” natural light. This reduces the need to use artificial lighting, which saves electricity. As a bonus, using less artificial lighting also lowers the amount of heat generated in the house, which, in turn, decreases the need for air-conditioning in summer.

Passive solar design

Passive solar design is one very effective way of harnessing the sun’s power to enhance the energy efficiency of your building. A well-designed and properly oriented building capitalizes on solar heat gain in winter and deflects unwanted heat in summer. This simple consideration can save a healthy percentage of a building’s energy use—and at no cost. There is nothing you can do to a building that has more effect for less investment.

Thermal mass is a design feature that utilizes stone and brick walls or solid (even decorative) features, such as a chimney on the south wall or hard flooring surfaces, which can absorb and retain the sun’s heat in the winter. After dark, these design features radiate heat back into the building. This is a good example of passive solar design and how it can make the most of the sun’s power to lower heating costs.

Shade trees and overhangs

In summer, if you have oriented the building properly and are able to take advantage of shade trees and overhangs, (shading that thermal mass and the windows) the ventilation can cool air that is automatically approximately 20° cooler that it would be otherwise.

The Building Envelope

In their recently published Smart Market Report; McGraw Hill Construction reported that by far the most highly used energy efficient building feature is air tight sealing and construction and insulation of the building envelope.The building envelope consists of the floor, walls, windows, doors, and roof of the building. The traditional envelope keeps the elements, noise, dirt and critters (for the most part, anyway) out, and lets in light; unfortunately, it can also leaks a lot of energy. The higher performance building envelope incorporates superior insulating techniques and passive control functions that promote energy efficiency.

The building envelope consists of the floor, walls, windows, doors, and roof of the building. The traditional envelope keeps the elements, noise, dirt and critters (for the most part, anyway) out, and lets in light; unfortunately, it can also leaks a lot of energy. The higher performance building envelope incorporates superior insulating techniques and passive control functions that promote energy efficiency.

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