Can We Just Use Less AC? And How Buildings are Becoming More Efficient

by | Sep 1, 2016

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energy effiencyLike most of the past, recent summers, 2016’s version has been extremely hot, at least in the northern hemisphere and especially in the eastern United States. With that, the air conditioners are going full blast. Can the environment sustain such usage?

According to the International Energy Agency in Paris, if the world wants to meet its climate targets set last December, something must be done. To that end, it says that more enforcement of building codes is necessary, which will in turn create more efficient buildings that would require less cooling. In says that new buildings could, for example, incorporate reflective surfaces while taking advantage of night time ventilation.

“These new households represent an opportunity to implement innovative policy and technological solutions that can limit energy demand for cooling, and keep the world on track under the 2 Degrees Scenario,” the agency’s report says.

The climate treaty, or COP21, “requires” countries to limit their heat-trapping emissions to avoid temperature rises of no more than 2 degrees Celsius by mid century.

According to the press release, space heating and cooling systems currently account for around 40 percent of building energy consumption around the world. And as standards of living rise, the statement continues, more than 80 percent of the growth in space cooling growth is expected to take place  in emerging and developing economies, pushing up energy demand. Much of that growth will take place in cities, the International Energy Agency adds, which is also where the greatest potential for energy savings can be found.

160823 Air Conditioner - Graph 1


160823 Air Conditioner - Graph 2



The opportunity to bring about real change means controlling demand at large plants and commercial buildings. Experts can study a facility’s technologies and operating protocols and determine where the pitfalls lie. They can then provide a good range of retrofits and the potential savings that those innovations will produce. The costly part would be any detailed engineering that is necessary to execute the plan.

The aim is to encourage all businesses to participate in the green culture. According to the Green Building Council, offices consume 70 percent of the electricity load in the United States. They account for roughly 38 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions here and over the next 25 years, carbon dioxide emissions from those structures are projected to grow faster than any other sector, at 1.8 percent a year.

In June, the World Green Building Council announced a goal of getting to “net zero” by 2050. “The success of our ambitions to keep global warming to within 1.5 to 2 degrees will depend on our ability to advance net zero buildings – those which generate clean energy and produce no net emissions. Net zero buildings will be a defining contribution in our efforts to tackle climate change.,” says Terri Wills, chief executive of the group.

Long-term targets include, according to its release:

  • All new buildings and major renovations should be net zero starting in 2030, meaning no buildings should be built below net zero standards beyond 2030. 100% of buildings should be net zero by 2050
  • 75,000 professionals trained on net zero building by 2030, and 300,000 by 2050.
  • All Green Building Councils which operate certification schemes, having a net zero tool in place by 2030.

The good news here is that the culmination of all these global efforts will have some impact. But the problems do seem to compound themselves, which is as the world gets hotter, it needs more energy to cool off.

*All charts provided by the International Energy Agency


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