Designing services without historical data

For some years now, building-services engineers have found themselves in the forefront of being urged to ‘do something’ to reduce the build-up of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere to reduce the effects of climate change — particularly global warming. After all, buildings are responsible for about half the UK’s emissions of that principal greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. In reality, little progress has been made. And since most experts now agree that climate change is inevitable (our feature beginning on page 30), there is probably little point putting effort into designing services to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. What building-services engineers are faced with will be regarded by some as exciting challenges and by others as demanding more imagination than they have been used to demonstrating. With temperatures predicted to rise, but no-one knows by much, historical weather data can no longer be relied on as the basis of calculations for the heating and cooling loads of buildings. Instead, the demand on their professional skill will be to develop designs for new buildings that are flexible and capable of change in the future. They will also be required to create solutions for existing buildings that achieve comfortable conditions but without adding to the pace of climate change. Challenges indeed. What a long way we have come in the 30 years since the early 1970s when the over-riding concern was whether the Earth had sufficient energy resources to the situation today where the concern is avoiding the use of fossil fuels.

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