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Industry's role in cutting emissions

With the economy still in a fragile state of recovery, how can the HVAC industry make a difference? Martin Fahey explains how adopting a lean, mean and green approach can help grow your business and save customers money
With the economy still in a fragile state of recovery, how can the HVAC industry make a difference? Martin Fahey, sustainable solutions manager at Mitsubishi Electric explains how adopting a Lean, Mean and Green approach can help grow your business and save customers money.

With buildings accounting for around half of all UK greenhouse emissions (more than both industry and transport), our sector has a vital role in helping the country achieve the ambitious targets that have been set.

In addition to having an impact on the 'green agenda', designers, installers and maintainers of heating, ventilation and air conditioning can have a significant impact on reducing the running costs of hard-pressed customers.

Buildings need heating, ventilation, power and sometimes cooling. Without these, we cannot create the habitable, operational and profitable spaces we all require to live, work and play in.

At the same time however, we want our buildings to be energy efficient, less carbon intensive and use more renewable technologies, making them more self-sufficient.

As the industry responsible for producing, specifying and maintaining the technology that can answer these needs, the building services sector needs to find ways of delivering what a building wants while addressing the challenges of what it needs to achieve.

At Mitsubishi Electric, we're aware that reconciling these needs and wants has changed the way equipment purchases have to be made.

New build rates in the UK are low, typically one to two per cent of stock and whilst these buildings have their part to play by avoiding 'locking in' poor performance, there are millions of homes and commercial buildings already in existence.

These existing buildings are a good place to start in looking for increased energy efficiency and savings in running costs, and they should be a priority especially when you consider that around 80 per cent of our existing buildings will still be in use in 2050, by which time we should have reduced our emissions by 80 per cent.

Our Green Gateway philosophy asks everyone involved in the industry, from architects, consultants, specifiers, installers, facilities managers, building owners and individual households to 'Do the right thing' with regards to energy use by adopting a 'lean, mean and green' approach.

Improvements in insulation can often be achieved simply and cost effectively and can make a real difference to energy bills and use.

This 'Lean' approach will ensure that less equipment will be needed to offset the loads that remain - something we fervently believe is the right approach to generating truly sustainable buildings.

Once the energy efficiency of the buildings envelope has been improved, next is to be 'Mean' by correctly deploying and monitoring the most effective and efficient equipment for that building.

This may mean simply using what is already there more efficiently by adding more effective controls. Old technology could be changed for more modern, energy efficient equipment.

As their costs increase and availability decreases, the use of fossil fuels on site become a less and less attractive option - especially as the technologies that burn them are already at the peak of their efficiency.

Wherever possible, we believe that they should therefore be removed in favour of lower carbon alternatives.

However, until you start to monitor and examine energy use, it is impossible to know how to use equipment more efficiently. Engaging fully with the users of the system is also a vital link if long lasting reductions are to be achieved.

Lastly, we urge everyone to be 'Green' by incorporating low and zero-carbon technologies where possible to create some or all of the energy required.

Greater economies can be realised by switching to alternatives, indeed, a future with electricity as the only point-of-use energy is now both possible and desirable due to the lower direct emissions this will generate moving forward.

The UK building stock is able to accommodate renewable technologies relatively easily. We are also fortunate that our climate is often ideal for supplying renewable energy via currently available technology.

Renewable solutions for use in buildings are varied and span both heating and power generation. Their inclusion gives buildings a level of energy independence and the skills exist to incorporate them.

As a country, we are still facing challenging targets and time is running out.

Simply put, we all need to move away from short-term decisions in favour of those that take a whole lifetime view.

As an industry, we need to engage all key players and to move towards viable lower carbon solutions.

Join the debate by visiting the Green Gateway LinkedIn group, or following the Twitter account (@green_gateway) which offers followers a chance to receive up-to-the-minute news and views from those within and outside the industry, including key opinion leaders.

Simply put, we all need to move away from short-term decisions in favour of those that take a whole lifetime view

//The author is the sustainable solutions manager at Mitsubishi Electric //
27 February 2014


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