All buildings use energy for lighting, heating or cooling. Buildings in the British Isles, and in countries with similar climates, suffer an overall loss of heat during the year, and the energy required to replace these heat losses represents a major portion of national energy consumption. Building services, such as heating and cooling, make up 40 to 50 per cent of the national consumption of primary energy, and about half of this is used in domestic buildings. This chapter begins with an overview of the nature of energy, the different forms of energy and how we measure energy content and usage. One aim is to become comfortable, or at least less confused, when reading and using the various units for energy and power that are found in professional practice. A major aim of energy use in buildings is to keep the human occupants thermally comfortable in terms of factors like temperature, humidity and ventilation. People vary in their needs and opinions about what is comfortable. Nevertheless, we need to agree on numerical values for human comfort conditions so that we can, for example, design and assess heating and ventilating systems.
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