In time this page will be a 'jumping off point' for a variety of topics relating the analytical power of thermal imaging to the concept of energy.

Topics will range from how different animals seek to conserve their energy, through how wasted heat energy can be detected to identify sources of potential mechanical failure in machines, to how different types of technology can make buildings and transport more energy efficient. 

The first of these pieces, some notes on energy efficient buildings and transport, is below.
Right. Sacred Ibis save energy through conserving heat. In combination with the insulation of their feathers, they reduce blood flow to one of their legs on a cold day at London Zoo

Right second picture. The reinforced concrete floors in this 1960's housing block 'wick' heat from the building in a process known as 'thermal bridging'
Right third. Although this is a picture of an old Victorian college building on a cold night in London, it could just have easily been a newly built one, with lights blazing, assorted windows open and the heating, still on. A culture of 'switching the lights off' when rooms were empty and optimized heating control systems, that only heated different zones of a building at times when needed, would save considerable energy.
Some notes on energy efficient buildings and transport


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Energy efficient lighting produces more light and less heat per Kilowatt-hour of of energy. 

Energy efficient transport produces less waste heat per person-kilometer. 

Well designed buildings, not only apply energy efficiently to keep people comfortable when it is cold outside, they do the same when it is hot, by using natural ventilation and keeping unwanted heat out. 

Buildings do not achieve energy-efficiency simply through design and construction; they rely upon on a combination of people, processes and technology, to perform that way. 
Really good buildings also help people to do what they want to do inside them, in an energy efficient manner.

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To the left is a composite thermal image of three Victorian terrace houses on a cold winter's night. These houses, of which there are still hundreds of thousands in use, were built without cavity walls and with very inefficient single-glazed sash windows. Making the walls and windows of such houses more thermally efficient can be very expensive, particularly as they are often located in highly desirable conservation areas, subject to strict guidelines as to what can and cannot be altered from its original state. Heat can be seen escaping though the walls, doors and windows. The left hand house appears to have relatively good insulating curtains and windows but very bad loft insulation. Although the valley roof behind the front wall is not visible to the human eye, its thermal outline is clearly visible above the left hand house, where heat has moved into the roof void and heated up the front walls and vents. The middle house appears to have poor window insulation and thin panels on its front door. The right hand house appears to have partial loft insulation, which has not been packed properly up to the front wall, so that heat is escaping up around its sides. Just visible to the top left of the picture is a chimney which appears to be far hotter than all the others, suggesting it is in use. 
Energy wastage in buildings and transportation can be tackled by learning from how resource wastage is tackled in manufacturing, with lean production techniques. 

Public policy has however to be sensitive to the fact that older, less efficient domestic buildings, although often in popular conservation areas, are owned by rich and poor alike.

Where practicable, energy savings can be designed in to a building from the outset. It is essential however, to have a very good understanding of how the building's future inhabitants are likely to want to use it. For example, whilst it may be OK to house hotel guests and office workers in air-conditioned but otherwise hermetically sealed boxes, long stay hospital patients might prefer to be able to occasionally open the windows.

Building designers need to get 'the balance right' for the building's intended users. Occupants need to be equipped with the right tools, like local heating and lighting controls, to support a 'lean energy mindset', suited to the way in which the building is meant to service them

Mechanisms can also be put in place to motivate building users to 'innovate' and propose ongoing energy-performance improvements, which can then be evaluated and possibly implemented, on a case by case basis. Such 'mechanisms' can range from parents asking children for their input with regard to energy-saving in the home, through to major employers rewarding innovative energy saving solutions proposed by their employees.

The above paragraphs can also be adapted to transport. Older, less energy-efficient vehicles are generally owned by poorer people. Fuel price rises are increasingly forcing people to drive more frugally; use more efficient vehicles and to avoid using a car at all when practicable.

Lean energy-minded transport maintenance can have additional positive impacts. Take for example the problem of over-hot underground trains. In a crowded carriage it may be that, at roughly 100 Watts each, the biggest source of heat are humans. However, how many non-human heat sources add to a stifling carriage's ambient temperature when underground on a hot day? How many of these heat sources might be either eliminated or seriously reduced over time with an appropriate 'zero heat waste' policy? 

An increasing proportion of the energy consumed within buildings is not to heat or cool them but to sustain activities within them. Well designed buildings of the future will allow users to switch electrical items off totally when not in use, rather than leaving them on standby. 

In future buildings will be designed to be more than just energy-efficient in themselves. Buildings will also be designed to help the activities conducted within them be as energy efficient as possible. This already happens in part, in many commercial buildings, with intelligent, task-based, heat light safety and access systems designed in from the outset. 

Already 'intelligent' buildings will however become increasingly intelligent, so that, for example, 'hot-desking' becomes easier;  remote workers log into a more efficient 'virtual server' rather than their desk-bound PC's, left on 24/7, and 'rentable space' is more flexible. 

There are also a growing number of 'design-in' and retrofit opportunities which can make domestic buildings more energy efficient, not through their own 'thermal performance' but through how they facilitate more energy-efficient practices. Examples include intelligent power systems to bypass the energy sapping demands of electronic devices otherwise left on standby 24/7; having a ventilated larder instead of an oversized fridge, and simple systems for using rain-water or grey-water, for flushing toilets and watering the garden.

Heat from the bus' engine dominates this picture of traffic on London's Euston Road
A great deal of the energy used in office buildings is consumed to first power the IT systems they contain and then to remove the heat that these systems generate.

A traditional water-butt outside a cottage
Copyright for all images and text resides with Steve Lowe/ Thermalcities, except where otherwise stated.


 Copyright 2008. All rights reserved