Energy use in buildings is a complex phenomenon. The design of the building and its systems are important factors in how much energy is used, but energy use is also strongly affected by climate and the manner in which the building is operated. Important building operation factors include operation schedules, thermostat settings, lighting and equipment use, and outside air ventilation rates. In most buildings, these are known before the building is designed and are taken into account by the architect. Ideally, building operation needs should affect the design of the building, but the cycle can also work in reverse. A poorly designed building may make efficient building operation difficult or even impossible.
Designers and builders have understood masonry as a building material for thousands of years, but many have become confused about its role in building energy performance. The purpose of this website is to clear away the confusion, and to provide solid information on how masonry can contribute to energy efficient building design and, at the same time, help to meet the energy codes.
The reason buildings use energy is to maintain comfortable living and working conditions. The temperature outdoors swings above and below comfortable temperatures, and the building envelope provides a thermal barrier between them. The amount of energy that flows across this barrier determines how much energy must be expended in heating or cooling the building to maintain comfort.
Lightweight walls and heavy walls moderate the temperature consequences of these energy flows differently. With light frame walls, the heat and temperatures that cross the building's thermal barrier arrive on the interior soon after they enter the wall exterior. With heavy, masonry walls, the heat and temperatures are reduced and delayed. In many cases, this means that less energy expenditure is needed to maintain inside comfort.