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A matter of perspective

It was a singular privilege to hear Qais Al Suwaidi, Director of Climate Change Department at the UAE Ministry of Climate Change & Environment, speak at the 11th edition of the Climate Control Awards. His address, coming less than two months before the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, had a striking relevance, especially for an industry […]

| | Oct 13, 2021 | 8:57 am
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It was a singular privilege to hear Qais Al Suwaidi, Director of Climate Change Department at the UAE Ministry of Climate Change & Environment, speak at the 11th edition of the Climate Control Awards. His address, coming less than two months before the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, had a striking relevance, especially for an industry that ought to be obsessed with emissions reduction, with total cost of ownership a collateral or predominant consideration.

Surendar Balakrishnan

The Awards happened at a time when there is considerable confusion on the direction to take with regard to constructing and running buildings. Citing characteristics of the virus and aerosol transmission – and keeping potential pandemics in mind – the calls are louder than ever before for greater Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) intervention, never mind the increase in energy use. The Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE) recently stated that the potential benefit to public health at this time outweighs the reduction in energy efficiency caused by not recirculating air. Weigh this against the conclusions of a recent study carried out in Vienna, Austria, which said building running costs may increase by up to 28%, if ASHRAE, AICM and EICM guidance on higher levels of ventilation and fresh air flushing is adhered to, though.

The last statement is enough to trigger alarm bells amongst proponents of energy efficiency. Take, for example, the statement issued by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), “Fossil-fuel combustion attributed to residential and commercial buildings accounts for roughly 29% of total US greenhouse gas emissions.” The US Department of Energy added, “Buildings in the United States account for nearly 40% of primary energy consumption in the country.”

The very same C2ES, highlighting the positive impact of energy efficiency-related intervention, said that energy-efficiency improvements in building practices since 2005 have yielded 17.3% reduced emissions in the residential sector and 11.4% in the commercial sector.

It’s a hard-fought achievement, and any drop in momentum would be catastrophic, if you belong to the anthropogenic climate change camp. In 2021, so far, climate change-induced floods have ravaged lives, livelihoods and homes, so there can be no let up in energy-efficiency efforts aimed at curbing emissions, including the need to be prudent with fresh air changes. But try telling this to someone who has lost loved ones to the rampaging virus and its uncontrolled spread in the built-environment. Simply put, it is a matter of perspective.  


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