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Developer focuses on energy reduction

A leading commercial property developer has said lack of government investment in electricity generation has forced his market to look at measures to reduce air conditioning use.

The commercial property sector was hit hard by power cuts in central London two years ago and is keen to avoid a repeat.

The comments were made at the Sustainable Commercial Office Refurbishment Seminar 2008, which was organised by refurbishment contractor Overbury.

Jonathan Walker, head of projects at Great Portland Estates, said: “The reliance on electricity for cooling will create problems. The Olympics is a distraction and the needed investment [in energy generation] won’t be made, so we may see more power cuts in central London. In response, we are using design to reduce consumption.”

Delegates at the seminar acknowledged this approach was fraught with problems. Mr Walker argued that raising set points from 22 deg C to 24 deg C would reduce energy consumption but highlighted the need to monitor the productivity of employees.

Gordon Carey, architect and president of the British Council of Offices, warned against making buildings work too hard and suggested measuring energy use in buildings by person rather than by area to highlight the importance of occupant comfort.

The challenge of educating building owners and tenants about more energy-efficient use of air conditioning was also highlighted.

Graham Wilson, director at Parker Wilson Consulting said: “We see lots of VRV systems that have been installed in the 1980s. One advantage is the capacity of these systems for free cooling. The savings can be potentially great but we find it a struggle to educate landlords.”

Mr Carey argued that green leases would be fundamental in this education process. “Green leases may have a soft start,” he said. “They will involve the tenant and owner working together to see what can be achieved, rather than a legal document.”