Whole Life Thinking – Kayley Lockhead responds

The way in which the global population consumes energy is not sustainable, both in terms of quantity and efficiency. However, it must be considered that future population growth and consequently energy demand will come largely from developing nations. These developing nations will suffer the most from the climate change caused mainly by developed countries, which have previously taken full advantage of excessive and unrestrained consumption of fossil fuels.

Perhaps, rather than imposing an international law, which may hinder the already unstable economic development of least developed countries, it could be proposed that improvement of the CDM mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol and guidance on country specific regional subsidiaries in relation to renewable energy and sustainable government frameworks could enhance the carbon reduction strategies in time to meet the growing energy demand of these developing nations.

However, providing better access to renewable energy is not the only requirement in meeting the needs of current and future energy demand in a sustainable manor. Measures need to be taken to ensure systems and designs reduce energy consumption by using innovation in the form of highly efficient equipment and natural systems. Although, in the UK, regulations such as Part L promote energy efficient systems, the end user is often unaware of how to ensure the most efficient use of the building.

Designs based on the Passivhaus concept offer a low carbon footprint, relying on natural systems, with the energy demand often coming from renewable energy systems. Although these designs require involved engineering, the outcome is simple for the end user; therefore it may be proposed that innovation in the form of sustainable energy systems integrated with simplistic, natural designs may offer viable solutions.

Innovative designs and new techniques are often hindered by the level of financial and time investment into research and development necessary to make new ideas a reality; however, excellent examples of innovative ideas have can be seen in developing nations and even in developed nations during these times of recession.

A lack of investment into R&D perhaps indicates comfort in existing techniques and resistance to investigate new methods until change becomes absolutely necessary, where change is often driven by cost or changing regulations. Innovation could be stimulated and driven forward by placing more stringent conditions on regulations and legislation whilst promoting renewable and energy efficient designs by offering a financial investment.

As already experienced with various schemes and legal plans, a new legal plan is unlikely to achieve perfection with the first draft. An example case is the CDM of the Kyoto Protocol, the legal requirements of the scheme are often unachievable. The rewards are too small for businesses at the forefront of renewable energy in developing countries to take advantage and, therefore, it could be said that the development of renewable energy is hindered by lack of adaptation, which brings me back to my first paragraph.

Rather than enforcing new global laws, a feedback loop, which monitors implementation and allows adaptation to suit the engineering environment of existing positive schemes could go a long way to ensuring success of carbon reduction strategies.

Kayley Lockhead is a Mechanical Design Engineer for NG Bailey and one of the recent winners of CIBSE’s Ken Dale Travel Bursary, an award that offers young building services engineers the opportunity to experience technical, economic, environmental, social and political conditions in another country and to examine, through the research bursary, how these factors impact the practice of building services engineering. Kayley will be studying renewable technologies in Africa to alleviate poverty and protect the environment. @KayleyLockhead 


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