Energy Efficient Design

Energy Efficient Design for Buildings in Rio de Janeiro

Shading (like the brise soleil shown here) can make a major impact on the energy efficiency of buildings. Photo by Colt Group licensed under creative commons.

Energy efficient buildings are designed to passively reduce energy use for heating, cooling and lighting. They have the potential to improve the comfort levels of occupants, have lower running costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In tropical cities like Rio de Janeiro, the most important design considerations in terms of energy efficiency are:

  • Natural Ventilation & Airflow
  • Minimising Solar Gain

By far the biggest requirement for energy efficient buildings in Rio is the minimisation of energy required for cooling.

It should be possible to design mixed-mode buildings where cooling is provided by passive measures most of the time, with energy efficient air conditioning being used only during hot periods. Thermal comfort does not necessarily have to be achieved by means of a sealed, air-conditioned “boxes”.

In Rio de Janeiro, a high level of thermal comfort and energy efficiency can be achieved when buildings are protected from the sun and opportunities for passive cooling measures are maximised. Allowing people to have access to the outside environment is highly desirable. Access to nature and views can improve well-being and even increase productivity.

Controlling solar gain on all façades, with adequate thermal inertia and the passive promotion of natural ventilation can allow thermal comfort to be achieved without need for air conditioning. At the very least, energy efficient design can reduce the requirement for air-conditioning. This can result in smaller (and cheaper) air-conditioning systems as well as reduced running costs – significantly improving the energy efficiency of buildings in Rio de Janeiro [1].

According to PROCEL, the Brazilian national programme for energy conservation (Programa Nacional de Conservação de Energia Elétrica), energy effciency savings of up to 30% can be achieved for existing buildings if they are retrofitted appropriately. The use of energy-efficient technologies in new buildings can achieve energy savings of more than 50% compared with buildings designed without such measures [2].

Energy Efficiency Resources in this Toolkit

Renewable Energy Technology

This toolkit also includes a review of relevant renewable energy technology in relation to buildings in Rio de Janeiro:

Renewable Technologies


  1. O. D. Corbella, “Learning from Built Examples in Rio de Janeiro: 18th Int. Conference on Passive & Low Energy Architecture,” 2001. [Online]. Available:
  2. “PROCEL.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 21-Oct-2012].