Make Energy Efficiency a Priority; Milica Kitson, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence inWales, Says It's Time to Take a Practical Approach to Climate Change and Focus on Energy Efficiency

Article excerpt

Byline: Milica Kitson

Let's get something straight. The weather is not the same as the climate. Climate warming sceptics will make the argument that the cold weather that Wales and the rest of the UK has been experiencing this winter is evidence that global warming is not something to worry about. They are wrong.

The snow and ice is as a result of the weather, and, believe it or not, it is not always predictable and it changes quite often.

It is not the same as climate and while everyone agrees that the outcome of the UN Climate Conference at Copenhagen was pathetic, it doesn't change the fact that cutting carbon and managing the energy used by the built environment must remain a priority in 2010.

Talking to construction professionals in Wales it is clear that sustainability is no longer seen as an extra feature in a building, it is now very much mainstream.

Developers, property owners and tenants don't just want to have sustainable buildings, they want them to have lower running costs and that means installing more efficient energy management systems.

Because, putting aside the debate about the bad science and the claims made by sceptics like David Bellamy and journalists in the likes of Express, Telegraph and Daily Mail, the central argument that improving energy management reduces costs and makes good business sense can't be ignored.

We need to take a practical approach. It is all very well trying to be green, but the buildings we live, work and play inside generate around 40% of all carbon emissions in the UK.

So we have little choice but to improve the energy efficiency of the existing homes, work, schools and hospitals to reduce our carbon footprint in this country.

From a domestic perspective, grants are available for improvements such as insulation and there are devices to monitor energy outputs to help manage the home better.

At a commercial, corporate and public level, estates teams and facilities management professionals are already adopting energy management policies and many organisations are making carbon commitments.

For new build - because we are seeing more developments in Wales - there are two options. Construct a building with little or no energy considerations but then use renewable energy to meet the energy demand. Or create a building that is airtight and insulated, requiring less energy and supplemented with renewable energy.

The latter is clearly the best, as we should minimise energy demand first then supplement with renewable energy.

Wales is aiming to achieve zero carbon new homes by 2011, five years ahead of England. …