“Engineers can be a part of the solution. We all need to get together as a planet and do it collectively.”

Those were the words of engineer and sustainability consultant at BuroHappold Engineering, Trevor Keeling. He was taking part in the Global Climate Strike along with 1,799 other employees of BuroHappold Engineering worldwide who stopped work to encourage better climate practices from government and businesses alike.

In the last week of September, people in over 150 countries gathered to demand an end to what they describe as the ‘age of fossil fuels.’ Construction professionals, civil engineers, and architects were part of these strikes.

The Green Building Council in the United Kingdom skipped work on Friday the 20th of September to protest in London. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) supported the movement too.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) wrote on LinkedIn, “The built environment is a significant contributor to carbon emissions. We believe our industry must make our voices heard to demand urgent climate action to achieve net zero carbon buildings. That is why we are joining with our members at the global climate strike this Friday.”

The UKGBC reports that the built environment contributes to around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. They blame the growing carbon footprint on the way the construction industry implements heating in buildings.

“Direct emissions from fuel use in existing buildings rose for the second year running in 2016, mainly due to heating. Heating alone results in 10% of the nation’s carbon footprint, and homes are more significant than all other building types put together. Decarbonizing our heat supply is one of the big policy challenges ahead. Another challenge is the carbon embodied through construction. Annual embodied emissions alone are currently higher than the GCB’s target for total built environment emissions by 2050.”

More reflection on the cards

UK Construction Week 2019 ran from October 8-10. The fifth annual event took place in Birmingham this year and brought construction professionals together to reflect on the sustainability of the industry. The key focuses were:

  • Modern methods of construction (MMC)
  • Sustainability
  • The digital revolution
  • Diversity in the workforce and how they impact risk management, productivity

At the innovation stand at the UK Construction Week, Mitsubishi Electric demonstrated its low-emissions answer to heating technologies, to meet the challenges of the climate emergency. The company has engineered a heat pump named the Ultra Quiet Ecodan and is hoping to make home heating and cooling more efficient.

“The government has already recognized how important air source heat pumps will be for the future of low carbon heating in the UK and is forecasting one million sales a year by 2030,” Mitsubishi Electric manager for renewable heating systems Max Halliwell said.

“One of the key areas that will affect adoption of these energy-saving systems is noise, which is why Permitted Development exists, and these new units are designed specifically to overcome any issues with noise.”

Mitsubishi says that the sound pressure level on the heat pump is only 45dB(A), which for homeowners will be very quiet. 40db(A) is the average home noise, with regular conversation or background music being 60db(A). Therefore, it would be whisper quiet — which is beneficial to the homeowners over the long term.

Furthermore, it is the earth’s health the UK government is interested in too. An air-source heat pump is a system that transfers heat from the outside to the inside of a building. The Ecodan takes renewable heat energy from the air and pumps it into a building. For every 1kW of power it utilizes, it produces 3kW of heat energy.

It is clear that the future of the construction of buildings requires innovative solutions in the realm of electrical engineering. Cleaner technologies are being introduced to the market, which will be increasingly necessary to quell the fears of the society who are faced with a changing climate. Until then, schools and workplaces might face further future-focused protest action.


Works Cited

Living Environment Systems, 16 May 2018, les.mitsubishielectric.co.uk/latest-news/ultra-quiet-ecodan-takes-heat-pumps-to-the-next-level.

“Climate Change - UKGBC - UK Green Building Council.” UKGBC, www.ukgbc.org/climate-change/.

Week2019-09-23T11:27:00 01:00, Sponsored by UK Construction. “Innovation, Change and Reform at UK Construction Week.”

Building, 23 Sept. 2019, www.building.co.uk/sponsored-content/innovation-change-and-reform-at-uk-construction-week/5101757.article.

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