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  • Writer's pictureHenry Muss

This is what climate emergency professionals need to focus on right now.

Why now is the time to demonstrate immediate carbon and financial savings to your organisation.

It was like a scene out of a movie: With the horrific California wildfires turning San Francisco skies a rusty apocalyptic shade, a child getting into the car for the school run turns around to his mother and asks, “how come we're going to school at night?”  Except as we know, it’s not a movie. This is our reality. And one in which there is no Bruce Willis to save the day.  The climate emergency has intensified in the past year. We’ve seen wildfires in California, Australia and Brazil; further glacial melts in the Antarctic; heatwaves and water shortages in India; a third of Bangladesh under water. The hurricane season in the US was so intense that the meteorological department  ran out of letters to name them and had to resort to Roman numerals.

There is clearly a resurgence in climate change consciousness and an awareness of a need to act. This is mirrored by private, public sector and national government policies around climate emergency declarations. There is a seemingly buoyant job market for carbon management professionals. Not seen since 2008 when I was a consultant delivering Phase 5 of the Carbon Trust LACMP programme have things looked so active.  That year working for Energy for Sustainable Development (ESD) we were supporting 45 local authorities to complete a Carbon Management Plan for their organisation. It seems the plans have been dusted down, in the process of being updated with more of a focus on “net zero” targets, terminology such as “emergency” and a greater focus on “ecological restoration”.  However the climate action plans that I’ve been reviewing as co-chair of the XR Climate Emergency national working group, mainly the public sector (the best showcased here) are in a tough place with respect to implementation. Current delivery of climate action plans are struggling. They lack the financial and human resources to implement plans, with the pandemic the overarching priority and in some cases just remaining viable economically being the main focus. While some solid plans have been produced, one of the main challenges and opportunities in this new world of climate collapse and pandemics is community engagement. However this takes time and innovative digital approaches given constraints on public meetings and face to face support to staff and residents.

Given this perfect storm organisations need to see big, quick and simple to implement carbon and financial wins and it's your role to prioritise and shout about it!  Its time to review your buildings building management systems (BMS). Buildings account for over 45% of UK energy use and carbon emissions. Sound energy management policies can reduce this figure. If your organisation does not have a BMS then look at your boiler settings and local thermostats.  When the temperatures start to drop (traditionally October to March) that's where 80% of your gas bill and associated carbon emissions are produced. Every 1deg C reduction in space temperatures = a 10% reduction in energy consumption.

  • Space temperatures: The chartered institute of building service engineers recommends  office/admin areas should be set to 20deg C, factory floors 16degC and hospitals 18degC

  • If your an SME check that all your thermostatic radiator valves (TRV’s) are set to 3, ideally locked and if you haven't got them it's time to put together a business case.

  • Heating period: check that heating is going off at night and weekends, if your building has night set back temperatures for compliance check that these haven't  “drifted” higher. 

  • Zoning: in some workplaces there will be much lower staff occupancy, think about consolidating staff where possible and look to use zone controls to turn off heating in unused floors or buildings (leaving frost stat on)

  • Ventilation systems: Air changes or ventilation rates for buildings with no natural ventilation control are carbon hungry. Axair fans recommend: offices 6 air changes per hour (ach), commercial kitchens 25ach and toilets 4ach (private) 10ach (public). Savings are significant here as fan speeds & gas consumption are reduced which means savings are proportionately higher than wet systems

Next it's time to shout about it! Once you’ve optimised your building controls for the heating season work out a rough calculation of financial and carbon savings possible.  Below is a typical breakdown of all energy by end use for a hospital setting so relate this to your heating period bill and look at what percentage you could shave off. 

You may then find it easier to ask for project finance for the trickier, less tangible measures such as staff awareness campaigns or meat free Monday!


ts time to act now.

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