"The great office meltdown has begun" (12 September, pages 24-25) certainly throws up a conundrum: global warming is causing higher summer temperatures, therefore increasing demand for air-conditioning; this in turn adds to energy use, causes more carbon dioxide emissions and accelerates global warming.
However, I don't agree with Nick Cullen, the climate change specialist at Hoare Lee, that existing buildings won't be able to be adapted to cope. We at Reid Architecture have taken a 1950s building in central London and refurbished it to be naturally ventilated. Solar gain is controlled through the use of blinds, we stripped out the ceiling to expose the concrete soffits with their thermal mass, used efficient T5
tubes for lighting and installed chilled beams to deal with summer temperature peaks. This didn't require wholesale gutting, as the chilled water supply for the beams is very small-scale. The result is a building that coped well this summer and has an energy consumption level less than the typical naturally ventilated office – and 75% of that of an air-conditioned office.
There is no single solution to the climate change conundrum; we must look at the challenges holistically. Some issues I suggest that could be considered are:
- Reduce lighting and equipment loads to compensate for the additional loads for cooling.
- Use the form of cooling with the lowest energy-use possible.
- Set the cooling temperature high so people feel comfortable, not cold.
- Learn from traditional building forms in warm climates.
- Look at the benefits of super insulation to combat worries about lightweight construction.
Stuart Barlow, technical manager/associate director, Reid Architecture, via email.