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Research reveals surge in office ventilation during pandemic

A new report has revealed a surge of investment in office ventilation, cooling and air conditioning from UK businesses and the public sector over the last year.

The research by energy efficiency consultancy EEVS was undertaken between April and June 2021, and mapped energy efficiency and climate emergency trends among organisations operating across public, institutional, commercial and industrial sectors. Eighty-two per cent of respondents work for large UK organisations which employ over 1,000 people.

Anecdotal evidence shows that a number of offices are now operating ventilation over a 24-hour period, leading to concerns about their ability to operate energy efficiently. Some offices had 80 per cent less staff during lockdown, but only saved 10 per cent of energy compared to before the pandemic.

Commenting on the findings, Ian Jeffries, Managing Director of EEVS, said: “There is a potential scenario in which increased energy usage will lead to a carbon rebound as people return to offices. Many energy teams will already be focused on how their real estate strategy aligns with their corporate net zero vision. But they need to do this by preparing for a carbon rebound and, crucially, should now be making plans to mitigate it.”

In a positive sign for the future, EEVS’ research showed that UK public and private sector organisations have used the pandemic to undertake energy efficiency projects across their property estates. Despite the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, 88 per cent of respondents reported that they had commissioned and delivered projects in 2020.

Despite a downbeat response from suppliers about their challenges over the last 12 months, the survey revealed a sense of optimism for the next year as society and business continue to unlock. Suppliers expect a significant rise in demand, with the climate emergency and reputational impact among the key drivers for customers seeking energy efficiency products and services.

To capitalise on this appetite and help UK businesses decarbonise, suppliers are calling on Government to provide more support in driving uptake across the public and private sectors. Just under 40 per cent of businesses felt that current Government energy efficiency policy was either ‘very ineffective’ or ‘ineffective’.

Jeffries added:We’re living in a time of unprecedented change and a climate emergency.  Buildings in the age of Covid-19 will need increased ventilation and therefore energy, which must be delicately balanced with a commitment to reducing business carbon footprint.

“To support organisations, it is key that suppliers continue to adapt to our changing world and consumer expectations.  And it is equally important that Government recognises the sector’s needs, providing the policy framework to support carbon reduction. We are seeing positive steps with the recently published Net Zero and heat and buildings strategies, and we keenly await the result of the Future Buildings Standard consultation. As more businesses plot the return to the office, let’s do everything we can to prevent a carbon rebound.”

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