The Carbon Footprint of Offices
While there has been exhaustive analysis of the energy use of the manufacturing and transportation industry, there has been relatively little light shone on the service sector, despite the fact that it appears to contribute about a sixth of UK carbon emissions. Now Chris Goodall, author of ‘How To Live a Low Carbon Life’ (see my review here), has published a review of the carbon footprint of the service sector.
Goodall found that the average office based worker is responsible for about 2.26 t CO2 pa while at work. This is slightly more than the average British person emits lighting and heating their own home (2.21 t CO2 pa), despite the fact they only spend a quarter of their time at work. The main culprit is air conditioning – offices with aircon have twice the carbon footprint of offices without. The popularity of aircon is growing despite the fact that passive ventilation is cheaper both in terms of capital cost and (obviously) running costs.
This week I was contacted by the owner of a small business (SME) who wanted to make their offices ‘green’. His frustration was that, like many small operations, they had little or no control over the services management in their workspace. This ruled out about half my standard ‘quick wins’, despite the fact none of them involved anything more substantial than changing a lightbulb. As the vast majority of companies are SMEs and few own their offices, this problem is widespread.
So while it is relatively easy to specify a low energy office new build (you just have to ask for “BREEAM Very Good” or “BREEAM Excellent”), the difficultly lies in all the existing blocks, and, importantly, influencing the person who has their hand on the temperature control.