The built environment imposes by far the greatest demand on fossil-based energy. This is the sector which could deliver the carbon-dioxide reductions within the timescale and without political risk.
We have some of the worst housing in Europe, and there needs to be a national strategy to bring the whole housing stock to a standard of thermal efficiency near to the current regulations for new buildings. The most urgent requirement is for a review of the thermal section (Part L) of the Building Regulations. This needs to be substantially tightened, so that in the domestic sector we are at least in line with comparable north European countries.
In commercial and institutional buildings, we need to tackle head-on the market resistance to naturally lit and ventilated offices. There is now conclusive evidence that green buildings offer a commercial advantage over their sealed, air-conditioned counterparts, not least in the health of the occupants. Where there have been corporate moves from an air conditioned office to green accommodation there has been around a 15 per cent reduction in absenteeism.
Earlier draft buildings regulations made it necessary to justify the inclusion of air conditioning. This was omitted due to pressure from the offices lobby. It should be reinstated, especially since the Government has demonstrated in an innovative building that it is possibly in areas of high pollution to have a seated building which is nevertheless naturally ventilated. The New Parliamentary Building in Whitehall will set new standards for the offices sector.
Professor PETER F SMITH
Chairman, Environment and Planning Committee
Royal Institute of British Architects
London W1Reuse content