Skip to main content

You are here

The rise in building energy efficiency

A new £50million pot, co-funded by the Green Investment Bank, will see packages of energy efficiency measures installed in hospitals across the UK, with one of the first recipients Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

It’s hoped that changes by the hospitals involved will cut bills by 20 per cent. With an annual NHS energy bill of £750 million and a carbon footprint of 25 million tonnes, there’s certainly a long way to go, but the money will surely provide a solid basis to build a concerted campaign of on-site energy reduction. Things have never been more immediate, with a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the service by 10 per cent by 2015. Measures that have seen good results in hospitals include LED lighting, combined heat and power and smart controls.

There is always potential to aim for greater heights of energy efficiency in the future. In Germany, the Passivhaus approach to green building is being tested for the first time in a hospital, with advanced insulation, ventilation and re-use of waste heat planned for the premises in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt. Here in the UK, the future of energy efficiency in non-domestic buildings of all kinds may well be in the hands of research teams in six universities. New funding of £3 m is aimed combining new technologies with maths and sociology to really master energy behaviour in public and private buildings. With humans being a complex bunch, energy-related behaviour is one of the hardest nuts to crack as we seek deep carbon reductions.

The studies will look at how energy management can synchronise (and indeed compromise) with the needs of people going about their business inside buildings. The University of Southampton is scoping windows, blinds and lighting in particular. Using the example of an office, project leader Professor, Patrick James, lays out the dilemma his team hopes to tackle:

"In a domestic setting, a householder is directly responsible for the energy bills and would therefore not consciously leave a window open overnight in the winter. In an office environment however, there is no financial driver for people to behave in the same energy efficient manner...This poses a real challenge to the facilities manager; ‘happy productive users’ prefer control of the façade, which is what well designed non-domestic building environments should provide, but providing this control introduces significant energy performance risk.”

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

Post a comment