Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Energy Engineering Conscience – Susie Diamond responds...

CIBSE President George Adams opened up his blog with a debate around the opportunities presented by climate change challenges and whether we could grasp them through behavioural change (see post below - Fri 28 June). This week, guest blogger Susie Diamond gives her response to the Energy Engineering Conscience debate…

The first challenge here is grasping the implications of climate change – I'm just going to focus on the UK here. We are confident that the climate is changing, but how? UK climate seems likely to become more volatile, with greater temperature peaks and troughs, higher floods, and longer droughts, but as my 5-year-old asked on the way to school one day: “The people on the weather: do they really know or are they just guessing?” I had to try and explain about educated guesses.

Adapting to the unknown is implicitly tricky. Our first tactic must be mitigation to lessen the damage – closing the embarrassing performance gap between what we as a construction industry promise and ultimately deliver has to be a priority. We seem to be honing in on the myriad of reasons that this gap exists, so let’s get our act together and tackle them. I think this requires us all to re-think our behaviour and maybe be a bit more helpful in how we communicate the key principles of what we've designed to those who have to install and operate it.

Given that some climate change is seemingly inevitable, adaption will also be key. Planning future developments to not just withstand the more challenging future weather scenarios, but still be pleasant to occupy will definitely be a challenge. I think there are all sorts of interesting ideas out there. Simple tactics like painting more roofs white to reflect heat and reduce the urban heat island effects, more planting (drought resistant and non-foundation-damaging) to increase evaporative cooling and provide shade seem sensible. I’m also excited by some of the newer technologies like phase change materials that can help temper internal temperatures passively, and glazing technology with in-built shading (g-values) that can be varied at the touch of a button. I’d like to see fan technology worked on to improve efficiency and reduce noise so that we can ventilate our buildings more effectively – when can we put a Dyson bladeless fan into a duct please?

The challenge of climate change is huge, but we do have the power to help, so please let’s pull together and get on with it!

Useful resources:
CarbonBuzz – help close the gap between calculations and actual building performance
CIBSE Knowledge Portal – A range of publications covering the topics Susie discusses are available now; TM52: The limits of thermal comfort: avoiding overheating in European buildings, TM49: Probabilistic design summer years for London and TM54: Evaluating operational energy performance of buildings at the design stage.

Susie Diamond
Susie Diamond is a founding partner of Inkling LLP – a Building Physics consultancy keen to help make buildings more comfortable and energy efficient. She has over 12 years’ experience in thermal/energy modelling, and a passion for passive and low-energy design. www.inklingllp.com @InklingLLP #BuildingPhysics Susie Diamond LinkedIn 

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