Low Carbon expert Dave Cadwallader of MEES Solutions explains why, in a heatwave, it’s important for businesses and their landlords to keep an eye on the need to cool the planet while taking short-term measures to keep staff cool:
One of the downsides of climate change is that the temperature is rising – however landlords and business owners taking steps to keep people cool could force the planet to warm even faster.
Climate change doesn’t just mean long, balmy summers, but also increased risks of flooding, wild, unpredictable weather and ultimately less habitable areas on the planet – which is why the Government are forcing property owners to make homes and non domestic properties more efficient via MEES regulations in a bid to cut carbon emissions.
The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. The new MEES regulations are forcing landlords, both domestic and commercial, to put energy-efficient solutions in place. However, in the UK, most of the solutions focus around heating and lighting – not keeping people cool.
Cooling is important – excessive heat means the brain does not function so well, people do not sleep so well and therefore less productive at work. At extremes, heat stress can lead to organ failure and death, with heat stroke causing altered mental states, sweat changes, nausea, vomiting, headache, rapid breathing and a racing heart. If untreated, it can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles.
However, the challenge for employers and landlords is finding a cooling solution that does not make climate change worse. Carbon dioxide emissions rose another 2% in 2018, the fastest pace in seven years – at least partly attributable to more demand worldwide for air conditioning and heating in 2018, according to BP Plc in its annual review of the energy sector.
In fact, according to the International Energy Agency, the number of air-conditioning units installed globally is to jump from about 1.6 billion today to 5.6 billion by the middle of the century, which Bloomberg warned only last month was likely to create a new vicious cycle. Many air conditioners still use hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), greenhouse gases which can trap 23,000 times more heat than CO2. While the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol will eventually reduce the use of HFCs, many developing countries still have six to ten years to comply. Within cities the heat removed from premises through cooling ends up in the atmosphere and can contribute to ‘urban heat island’ effects in cities. In the UK methodologies such as TM52 and TM59 can help to predict levels of adaptive comfort during design and refurbs, and can take account of likely future temperature increases but in many existing buildings there can be issues.
So, are there any climate friendly ways to keep cool?
One thing is sure, the ad-hoc purchase of inefficient personal fans stuck under desks and portable aircon units aren’t good for staff or the climate – they consume large amounts of power but have only a minor impact on temperature. However, there are other ways to keep your staff cool and we’d recommend businesses take some of the following steps:
Hopefully, UK PLC will manage to keep it’s cool through the latest hot weather forecast. However, while we are cooling down the temperatures in the office, it’s important to keep our eye on cooling down the planet too.
About the author
Dave Cadwallader is a Director at MEES Solutions, one of the UK’s leading Low Carbon Consultancies and provider of Non Domestic EPCs and MEES Compliance advice as well as TM52 and TM59 assessments. They specialise in advising landlords on the low carbon investments which will have the highest and fastest impact on improving their energy rating, something they call ‘common sense compliance’.