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City Pollution

Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’s) form the basis of the COP21 Paris agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise “well below” 2⁰C above pre-industrial levels.  Nations outline their INDC plans on cutting their post-2020 emissions.

There is a legal requirement for these INDC plans to be revised ever five years.  There is no requirement to state how the reductions will be achieved and there is no legal requirement to achieve the INDC targets.  This is surely a major weakness.

The INDC’s of the largest greenhouse gas emitters have set their targets: China has targeted a 60-65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 2030; the United States, has targeted a 26-28% reduction by 2025; and the European Union has targeted a 40% reduction by 2030.

By maintaining the status quo in terms of carbon emission it is anticipated that the global temperature rise will reach 3.6⁰C by 2100.  A recently published assessment (http://climateactiontracker.org/) suggested that the emission reductions currently outlined in the currently submitted INDC’s would result in a global temperature rise by 2.7C.

This figure was generated by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT).  CAT is an independent scientific analysis, produced by four research organisations, tracking climate action and global efforts towards the globally agreed aim of holding warming below 2°C.

CAT categorise each of the submitted INDC’s as follows:

Inadequate If all governments put forward inadequate positions warming likely to exceed 3–4°C.
Medium Not consistent with limiting warming below 2°C as it would require many other countries to make a comparably greater effort and much deeper reductions.
Sufficient Fully consistent with below 2°C limit.
Role Model More than consistent with below 2°C limit.


Of the 31 INDC’s that have been reviewed:

  • Five are Sufficient: Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Morocco and The Gambia
  • Ten are Medium: including the China, EU and the USA
  • Sixteen are Inadequate: including Russia, South Africa and Australia

It is important to remember that these INDC’s are pledges and not legally binding.  None of these countries have a clear plan on how to achieve their INDC targets.  So without a coherent plan it is fair to assume that it is more likely that the IDNC targets will be missed rather than exceeded.

US President Barack Obama has hailed the COP21 agreement as “the best chance to save the one planet we have”.

Who am I to contradict the President of the USA, but I am delighted to tell you that you don’t have to worry about the planet – the Earth will survive global warming.

Why do I know this?  Well there is scientific evidence that shows that during the last few hundred million years the Earth has been both much warmer and much colder than it is today.  In both extreme cases Earth has survived.

Consequently, I do not think our 1.5⁰C or above increase in global temperature will damage Earth.

It will be 7.5 billion years before the Earth will be consumed by the sun which will have become a red giant.  This is so far in the future it is not a concern.  So what is the problem?

Loss of Life.

Five major mass extinctions have been identified over the last 500 million years or so.  In the most extreme cases almost 95% of life became extinct.

The most famous mass extinction killed off the dinosaurs.  This was extremely fortunate for humans as it created the opportunity for mammals to occupy the space vacated by the dinosaurs.  This obviously led to us – Homo sapiens – becoming the dominate species.

Homo sapiens have been around for a hundred thousand years.  In that time species such as the mammoth and the sabre-toothed tiger have been lost.  Whether that has been due to humans or not is questionable.  However, the same cannot be said for the Dodo and many recent species that have become extinct.

However, our interaction with the Earth is causing an increasing number of species to disappear.  Scientists believe that we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction.   Human activity such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, dams, over fishing, etc. demonstrate that we are the principal cause of this current mass extinction.  Scientists have estimated that by 2100 50% of current species will be extinct.

What about us?

Humans are highly resilient.  What happens to us depends upon what action we take to stop global warming.  We face droughts, floods, lost top soil, food and water shortages, wars over resources and mass migration, etc.  By 2100 will we have smart cities or no cities?  Will we be going forward to a much better global society or devolving back to the ‘Dark Ages’ e.g. post Roman Empire?

It is our choice.

One thing is for sure – The Earth will be OK.

Read more of Don’s views on the outcomes of COP21.

COP21: A Triumph or an Illusion?

Posted: December 21, 2015 by , Category:Climate Change

The photos of the delegates with big smiles, applauding and raised arms clearly illustrate that COP21 was a major success.  Delegates went home and could report a major achievement.  It was a massive step forward, achieving a global commitment to significantly reducing carbon emissions thereby substantially reducing the impact of global warming.

Should we all rejoice?

What are the key agreed targets from COP21?

  • To keep global temperatures “well below” 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C
  • To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100
  • To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge
  • For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.

The agreement is the first where all countries have committed to cut carbon emissions. Some aspects of the agreement will be legally binding, such as submitting an emissions reduction target and the regular review of that goal.

Every five years countries will have to declare their ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ or INDC.  The idea is that every five years countries will set new, more rigorous targets.

What won’t be legally binding will be the emission targets. These will be determined by nations themselves and the INDC need not be a meaningful target.  For example a study on 31 of the INDC’s submitted so far show over 50% are inadequate and likely to lead to global temperature rises of 3-4⁰C.

In addition, whilst it is legally binding that the INDC targets are set, it is not legally binding that you need to achieve them.  This is a major weakness.

To date, 147 countries have submitted their INDC’s.  If these targets were to be achieved they will only reduce global warming to 2.7⁰C. This is well above the 2.0⁰C goal of the Paris Agreement.

Whilst ambitious goals have been set at COP21 it is left to others to work on how to implement the goals.

These INDC’s will require serious political commitment to deliver the targets, particularly if it requires reducing economic growth or is too expensive to implement.

Additional Concerns

US President Barack Obama has hailed the COP21 agreement as “ambitious”.  I am uneasy with the word ‘ambitious’ in this context.  He also admitted that the deal was not “perfect”, he said it was “the best chance to save the one planet we have”.  Again I don’t like the non-committal tone of the message.

In addition, China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua agreed with the President and he also stated that the deal was not perfect.

It appears that COP21 achieved much good will and clearly a verbal intent to take action, but what will happen if one or more countries renege?  Will the agreement collapse like a pack of cards?

The big question is will there be the political strength in each country to implement the measures to tackle this problem?

Buildings, cities, manufacturing and industrial processes will play a major part of a countries carbon reduction strategy.  The problem each country faces is that there is little or no commercial lobby for energy efficiency.  The lobbying is done by the renewables and clean tech sectors.  Whilst these are important there is little point in renewables or clean tech if buildings are wasting 30%-50% of their energy in the first place.

Is it surprising that if buildings are not made energy efficient then more renewables and clean tech will be required?

Unfortunately, I fear the success of COP21 could be more of an illusion than a triumph. Put the Champagne back into the vault, it will be a long time before we will know if COP21 was a success or not.

The AIA recently issued a press release announcing the findings of its AIA 2030 Commitment 2014 Progress report.
The report showed that nearly half of energy-modeled projects met or came close to meeting 2014 carbon reduction targets, with a quote from the press release saying “Quite simply, energy modeling presents the greatest opportunity for architects to realize more ambitious energy-saving in their design projects.”

The press release featured industry experts who agreed that energy modeling is key to reaching carbon neutrality in buildings. We interviewed one of the experts, Kim Shinn, a Sustainability Wizard at TLC Engineering for Architecture, to find out more of his views on energy modeling and the benefits of an integrated design workflow.

Why is an integrated design process, where the architect, engineer, owner, developer, and contractor are a critical part of the concept modeling stage, so important to creating sustainable buildings?
A couple of reasons come to mind.  The first is the principal that the earlier you can make an informed decision, the greater its impact on the building’s potential to perform well and the lower it will cost to implement. The second is that each member of the team brings special knowledge, perspective and experience to help inform those decisions – we benefit in the whole having greater knowledge than the sum of the parts.

Why is it so important for Architects to incorporate energy modeling as part of their design process?
All building performance simulations, not just the ones that model energy performance, are incredible tools that open a window into the design process.  Buildings are complex, comprising interactive elements and systems that defy the human mind’s ability to integrate all that information to develop design solutions and evaluate alternatives.  The decisions that project teams must make, especially the architects, from siting and orientation, to massing, to fenestration, to program area assignment, all the way down to envelope constructions are best informed when the architect understands the energy implications of those decisions, along with cost, aesthetics, function and human health and wellness.  Architects have to balance all those factors and the more information that they have about them, the better decisions they can make.

What do you think makes Architects hesitant about energy modeling? What are the obstacles to the uptake of energy modeling?
Energy modelling tools, especially the ones with a lot of power and capability, can be very complex and intimidating.  I frequently tease architects that energy models are powerful and complex tools, and as with many powerful and complex tools, an inexperienced operator can be maimed if not careful.  Also, the output of some of the older tools have traditionally been mostly numerical and not easily or quickly understood without a lot of “post-processing”.  Understanding and effective use of an energy model depends upon the user’s ability, skill and knowledge of building science.  Unfortunately, some architects are intimidated by “science” and think that “science” is the province of engineers.  So, I think architects are hesitant because they fear that they won’t be able to use the software and/or understand the model’s results without having to hire a consultant (normally an engineer).  Who wants an engineer around during design anyway – their vocabulary usually starts and ends with “no”.  Architects think it will take too much time and money (especially if they have to pay a consultant to do it).  Therefore, the obstacles:  knowledge, time and money.

Do you think concept energy modeling is enough? Is there a need for more detailed energy modeling at the early stages to uncover innovative strategies?
Concept modeling is a start, and needs to be more widely used.  If it becomes more routinely used, I think teams will see that there are opportunities to investigate novel and innovative strategies at early stages of design – especially to determine if further, more intensive investigations are warranted and feasible.

In your experience of using IESVE do you think it enables more detailed analysis at early design stages? If so can you explain how it does this?
Without question.  The integrated suite of solar, daylighting and glare analysis, wind and ventilation modeling, along with the energy analysis offered in the VE sets it apart in its ability to figuratively “open the windows” [pun intended] for looking at any number of early strategies that help shape the building’s architecture.  Effective daylighting and natural ventilation depend so much upon building form, fenestration and orientation that it is difficult and usually prohibitively expensive to develop and implement good solutions after those decisions are made in the absence of the information gained from simulations.  The VE also has enormous power and potential to influence, not only energy performance, but also the health and wellness performance of buildings, especially when it comes to occupant comfort and productivity that results from good daylighting, indoor comfort and natural ventilation.

Do you think the AIA guide will have a significant impact on increasing the amount of projects that use an integrated design process?
The Institute is incredibly influential.  It is trusted by its members, as well as the greater design and construction community, for the quality of its educational offerings as well as for helping shape the culture of the design practice.  The education materials developed, as well as the policies adopted and advocated by the Institute have the potential to change the way architecture is practiced, not only in North America, but around the world.  And these changes affect the way real estate development happen – all the way from client expectations to project delivery to actual performance.

Do you know of any good project examples that have used an integrated design process and are achieving good results? Can you share these with us?
I daresay that any Living Building or LEED Platinum project is an excellent example of an integrated design process.  In fact, it is almost inconceivable to think of achieving those levels of performance without using integrated design processes – short of spending inordinate sums on “buying points” and excessive renewable energy capacity.  While we have many, many examples of these projects, I’ll just cite one.  The fitness center at Tyndall Air Force Base is the US Air Force’s first LEED Platinum building, and the first LEED Platinum project administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  The architect was Atkins and TLC provided the building systems engineering.  The Air Force wanted to use the project as an educational demonstration project, to demonstrate how integrated design and incorporating early energy modelling could achieve high performance goals – they wanted the project to demonstrate how to achieve LEED Silver level on a “conventional” building budget.  I think it speaks volumes that we were able to achieve Platinum on a pre-LEED budget.  We used energy modelling at the concept phase to influence site orientation, massing, and fenestration approaches to minimize solar gain and maximize daylighting potential, as well as to maximize the solar photovoltaic and solar thermal potential of the building for no capital cost impact.  We used energy and daylight modelling to size the window apertures and glazing material selections during design development, as well as to optimize the equipment sizing, achieving significant capital cost savings over more “conventional” approaches.

IES-Ci2-Chart-resized (2)
Earlier this year, RBS’ Innovation Gateway launched the Bristol Go Green Challenge. The challenge sought to source innovative solutions to a range of challenges, including creating the first carbon neutral RBS branch. We are delighted that our CI-Squared service was selected as one of 12 successful innovations to be trialled as part of the challenge and today our blog looks at how it will help to uncover hidden energy and carbon savings on the RBS estate in Bristol.

Following our success in the RBS Bristol Go Green Challenge, we will be trialling CI-Squared on RBS properties in Bristol in the coming weeks. CI-Squared, which stands for Collect, Investigate, Compare and Invest, is the process which we use to enable the power of our established Virtual Environment performance analysis technology to be used on buildings during operation.

CI-Squared is innovative as it links together all operational data streams (e.g. Smart/AMR Meters, Sub Meters, BMS Equipment, Environment Sensors, other building systems such as lighting), and other available external data sources, such as weather, with 3D performance models. This means that real data, rather than design data, can be used directly in calibrated simulation models enabling more accurate predictions.

The strength of our Virtual Environment (VE) suite is the integrated and holistic nature of the way it assesses building performance; taking into account the thermal properties of construction materials, external weather conditions, internal occupancy levels and usage patterns, operational details of equipment and HVAC services, and internal comfort.

One of the key strengths of CI-Squared is its value of being used after initial ‘Quick Win’ energy efficiency improvements have been made, and its capability to find more improvements. It can either be applied to a building for a fixed period or can be used on an ongoing basis to support a programme of continuous improvement, depending on the individual application.

Our Eureka moment
IES was formed in June 1994 by Dr Don McLean, our Managing Director. Its roots go back to 1979; when the 1973 energy crisis, the three-day week, power cuts and predictions that oil would run out by 2000 were all high in the public’s consciousness. Against this backdrop, Don McLean started his PhD work in detailed computer simulation of renewable energy devices. This work, along with subsequent research and commercial activity consolidated three fundamental observations that IES is built on:

  • Buildings are major consumers of energy and they have to be made more efficient to cut CO2 emissions, conserve fossil fuels and preserve the environment for future generations.
  • Buildings are generally designed on experience and simplistic performance calculations even though it has been proven that the use of performance based building simulation can achieve much better performing buildings that consume significantly less energy.
  • Pre-IES building performance tools were too complex to use and remained in the hands of academics making very little impact on mainstream commercial design.

What impact will our innovation have at RBS Bristol?
CI-Squared for the Bristol Go Green Challenge will help RBS look for new ways to refine and implement smarter system control and source zero, or low cost, energy demand reductions as a ‘first step’ on the Bristol estate. Then, through thorough scenario analysis using 3D calibrated modelling and investment appraisal, we can investigate what Retrofit and Deep Retrofit scenarios are possible at Bristol and, in particular, how RBS can achieve it’s ambition of creating the bank’s first Carbon neutral branch.

Whilst the IES CI-Squared service directly addresses energy and efficiency of buildings, due to the holistic nature of the service and its integrated consideration of environmental conditions, it will also directly impact on the provision of health and well-being for employees and customers.

Working with RBS
We’re really excited about the feedback and input we’re set to receive from RBS as we go through the trial process at Bristol. Whilst our service has already been tested on a number of Proof of Concept studies in the retail, healthcare and public sectors, we are looking to identify the most appealing and replicable business model, for which understanding and exploring opportunities in the financial sector is crucial.

What’s next for IES
IES has always looked towards the future, investing 1/3 of our turnover in research and development. We’re always looking for better ways of doing things, with the overall objective of continuing to provide our clients with the most advanced ways of reducing building energy consumption and costs.

The aim is to provide appropriate and accurate metrics in a format that allows Energy Managers to understand where improvements are possible and to mitigate or eradicate inefficiencies completely. The information provided will help to plan energy efficiency actions based on actual energy production and consumption, presented as real savings and improve end-user’s comfort levels.

You can read more about Don’s vision at his recent Blog ‘Why Cars are Smarter than our Buildings.


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