Department of Environmental Design
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The Environmental Design Department has the remit of focusing on the environmental performance of buildings, including topics of environmental performance, building engineering physics, energy efficiency, climate and building comfort, natural and artificial lighting and acoustic performance, and related building regulations, and building services systems. It is widely acknowledged that the construction industry represents a very substantial component of energy consumption, in Malta as much as in Europe, and therefore any efforts to reduce dependence on energy resources, particularly non-renewable sources, must include significant improvement in the energy efficiency and energy performance of our buildings. In response to recent EU Directives on the energy performance of buildings, the Government of Malta is in the process of establishing relevant regulatory frameworks. However, the degree by which such regulations will improve the energy performance of buildings is difficult to foresee considering the absence of real-time performance data, taking into account local conditions. As a result, at the moment, there is a high degree of confusion and controversy about which “green” investment is viable in the local context, which is tending to make the industry sceptical and not receptive to regulation. The recently launched Proposal for an Energy Policy for Malta, 2009 has in fact identified a number of barriers to the uptake of energy efficiency that include the lack of visibility of the saving potential, the hidden cost of inefficient energy use, a lack of knowledge on the cost-effectiveness and returns in energy end use efficiency. Energy performance is, however, but one aspect of the environmental performance of buildings which is gaining in importance. Building comfort includes issues of lighting, both natural and artificial, and, increasingly, issues relating to the acoustic environment, both internal and external. The term building engineering physics has been recently coined to address several different areas in building performance, including air movement, thermal performance, control of moisture, ambient energy, acoustics, light, climate and even biology. The objective is to identify creative ways of controlling these main aspects of a building’s indoor and outdoor environment, to obtain a “more eco-friendly standard of living”. The discipline combines the sciences of architecture, engineering and human biology and physiology.