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Is it really possible to reduce emissions and save money at the same time?

facilitiesThe level of collective belt tightening in the business world has grown markedly since the start of the credit crunch in 2008. As a result, professionals in the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning sectors scrutinise the bottom line ever more carefully. Their customers too have become increasingly aware of costs and bring considerable pressure to bear in an effort to reduce them.

That’s why it pays to take a close look at the financial as well as the environmental case for reducing harmful emissions from building services technology such as air conditioning and air handling units. In fact, for me, the two issues – economic and ecological – are intrinsically linked.

We are often told that we can’t save the planet and save money at the same time. I profoundly disagree. After all, to counter the impact of damaging climate change, we need (and are developing) more energy efficient equipment. This, in turn, reduces its running costs.

Why? Because an energy-using product is typically cheaper to buy than it costs to run over its lifetime. In other words, in the total cost of ownership equation, capital cost is a small proportion of the price. A far higher proportion is accounted for by running and maintenance costs.

That makes purchase price relatively unimportant – it doesn’t matter how expensive or inexpensive the technology is. What matters is how much it will save over its lifetime.

Designs that stay on the drawing board because of excessive cost or complexity make no contribution towards reducing greenhouse gases or energy consumption.

That’s one of the reasons I generally favour simple, less expensive ideas. They have more chance of making it through the design process and into the real world where they can start to make an environmental difference.

According to some estimates, the construction and environmental control of buildings contribute 40-50% of all greenhouse gas emissions and transport accounts for another 20-30%.

Surely, for the sake of the planet, specifiers and designers can no longer justify constructing or refurbishing buildings that fail to minimise the carbon footprint.

The simplest solutions are often the best

It’s a classic win-win; let me give you an example. ECEX has completed a trial with Amey, using air intake screens reducing energy consumption by up to 5% and reducing CO2 emissions by up to 5,000kg a year from just two AHUs.

The trial was conducted at Westminster City Hall where air intake screens were installed to prevent pollen leaves, insects, dust and other airborne debris from entering the air handling units (AHUs). During the trial, a major construction project was also taking place adjacent to Westminster City Hall.

Without the air intake screens, additional dust and materials that had become airborne from the works would have been drawn into the AHU causing the AHUs to use additional power.

The ROI on the supply and installation of the ECEX Air Intake Screens is less than four months and the screens have a minimum 10 years guaranteed service life.

Sustainable practices often make a significant contribution to long-term affordability. The fact is that environmental spending creates jobs in engineering, manufacturing, construction, materials, operations and maintenance.

That means the more the building services sector invests in technology and jobs, the greater the pay-off.

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