As we prepare for a post-lockdown return to normalcy and world leaders gear up for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Glasgow in November, Adrian Michaels, Lead Consultant on Sustainability at HFM, a BGIS company, contemplates what the rest of this decade holds for the built environment.
“Despite the grave challenges faced by the world, there are many reasons why the 2020s are full of promise and potential. Having spent more than 30 years performing engineering work in the built environment, there is no doubt in my mind that we are on the cusp of significant industry change.
When I commenced in the building automation industry, there was great focus on energy efficiency driven by the effect on energy prices from the oil shock of the 1970s. That momentum didn’t continue into the later part of the last century, as abundant cheap energy provided by coal power and the de-regulation of the electricity industry reduced electricity costs to a point where energy efficiency was a hard sell by the late 1990s.
Over the last 20 years, the path to net-zero emissions in the building industry has slowly gained pace, underpinned by a combination of investor and user pressure against a backdrop of patchy and inconsistent government policies.
The upcoming COP26 Conference in Glasgow will put pressure on countries across the world – particularly the advanced economies – to seriously step up actions to transition to a low-carbon future as the window for action on climate change closes at an increasingly fast rate.
Locally, the long road to bi-partisanship on climate change action seems agonisingly close and hopefully the policy battle will move to focus on the how rather than being perpetually stuck on the why. Combined with a world that’s ready to re-emerge from a COVID induced stupor, these developments bode well for an explosion of change over the next decade. The built environment continues to provide huge opportunities for large and – importantly – quick reductions in emissions.
Every tonne of emissions reduction we achieve now buys time to implement emissions reductions in more difficult and complex areas of the economy.
While the next 5–10 years will be a massive period of positive change as our industry really ramps up on delivering on its part for a net-zero future, the basics remain the same. The majority of buildings that BGIS manages for our clients use plant and technology that are on average 15–20 years old, so the way we manage, operate and upgrade them will require new and old skills combined with an innovative, ‘anything is possible’ mindset – our future may very well depend on it."