RIBA president Jack Pringle has called for the British Council of Offices to cut carbon emissions by imposing tougher energy efficiency standards.
At last week's conference, Pringle and other key industry players called for a change to the BCO Specification, the authoritative industry guide to specifying office buildings.
Pringle argued that the Specification should be changed to deliver a 60% reduction in carbon emissions in the office sector by 2050. He said a start could be made by adopting the 24°C, as advocated by Corenet, a forum for office users.
Current BCO specification states that office temperatures should be 22°C in summer and 20°C in winter. But Corenet has argued that 30,000 tonnes of carbon could be saved a year if offices were 24°C all year round. This is the equivalent of the carbon generated by 90,000 return flights between London to New York.
Ninety-four per cent of the audience, including David Nelson of Foster and Partners and John Drew of Rafael Viñoly Architects', voted in favour of the plans. The 60% target by 2050 is in line with government targets for reducing carbon emissions.
Robin Harris, vice president of Corenet, said the only way to affect change was to get the BCO on board. He said: "We've sent out 500 questionnaires for the 24°C campaign and have received 35 responses from clients, including BBC, Shell and Royal Bank of Scotland. We will now put together a committee with a range of clients and this will put pressure on the BCO to adapt a new Specification. We would like to get something done by next year's BCO conference. The only reason it currently says 22° is because it has always been that way. We're calling for a shift in standards, so we're taking a risk."
However, the BCO said it was unable to commit itself to a timetable for introducing the new temperature. Arup's Richard Terry, the deputy editor of the latest edition, which was published in February last year, said the targets would probably have to be introduced over a period of time.
We are calling for a shift in standards, so we are taking a risk
Robin Harris, vice-president, Corenet
He said: "I am sure the timescale will be discussed at great length. The next edition is not due out for a few years but the BCO may well bring it forward if that is what its membership is calling for."
Pringle said the government was good at setting sustainability targets but weaker at instructing industry how to deliver them. He said: "Where possible, the industry should come up with solutions itself."
He added that as yet there was no definitive research on reducing carbon emissions in office buildings but designers would have to specify over and above current standards.
He said: "Even with 10% renewables in London and the new Part L, 60% is a tough target. Cooling would be the really difficult issue to tackle and we'd basically have to use every trick in the book, including solar shading, bore water and fuel cell technology, to meet the higher standards."