A government advisor is among engineers and renowned architects now advocating for the outlawing of construction of all-glass skyscrapers saying their reflections trap heat in urban areas and are too difficult and expensive to cool.
According to a new report from The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/28/ban-all-glass-skscrapers-to-save-energy-in-climate-crisis) who interviewed Simon Sturgis- a government and Greater London Authority adviser, as well as chairman of the Royal Institute of British Architects sustainability group.
Sturgis says that “if you’re building a greenhouse in a climate emergency, it’s a pretty odd thing to do to say the least.”
According to The Guardian’s James Tapper, “glass-fronted offices, from high-profile buildings like the Shard to shopping centres and industrial parks, have become popular with architects and their clients because they create an arresting view in a city skyline, let in lots of natural light and provide great views for those inside. But the sunlight also brings heat, and in sealed buildings there is nowhere for it escape to naturally.”
“If you’re using standard glass facades, you need a lot of energy to cool them down, and using a lot of energy equates to a lot of carbon emissions,” he said.
Earlier this year, we reported (https://www.bestpracticecertification.com.au/post/new-york-city-mandates-all-new-buildings-must-go-green) on New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio pushing through radical new climate policies in the metropolitan area, mandating that all new buildings must go green.
“His ‘ONENYC 2050 plan’, which aims to slash the city’s emissions by 40% in the coming year years includes plans to ban all-glass facades, which magnify and trap heat in the city,” amongst other changes.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London has said publicly he won’t be going down the same path as NYC’s de Blasio.
Sturgis himself says that “certainly, I think there should be a ban… the connection needs to be made between the climate emergency and all-glass buildings. BUt the connection hasn’t been made yet,” he said.
The Mayor of London has released (https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan) a new version of what is known as the London Plan, which, amongst other things will require a construction firm to “make an assessment of a building’s energy use across its whole life-cycle,” according to The Guardian.
“Big commercial tenants don’t like standing up in front of their shareholders and saying they’re doing embarrassing things,” Sturgis said. “No one wants to be treated as ‘Mr Climate-Dirty building’ and I think this is going to start happening.”
“I’m advising a bank that wants to build a very big building in London- which I can’t tell you about, but I’m having this exact conversation - I think the building could be obsolete by the time it’s finished.”
“To mitigate the amount of energy used to cool these buildings,” Sturgis continued, “you have to product a really complicated façade, which is usually triple glazed… But double glazed units and laminated glass don’t last very long - 40 years or so. So, you have to replace your facade every 40-years, that’s also not a very good idea,” he said.
According to Simon Wyatt, partner at engineering firm, Cundal and a UK Green Building Council committee member, all-glass facades have a number of advantages in cooler climates, where the ‘solar heat gain’ works in its favour, using less energy on heating the building. Wyatt suggests that natural ventilation for the warmer months would save “up to 60-70% on our air conditioning loads,” however in polluted urban areas, this often isn’t a viable option.
Head of sustainability at Mitsubishi Electric, Martin Fahey told The Guardian that higher temperatures are going to give air conditioning units a work-out as the temperature continues to rise. “Most air conditioning equipment is designed to give an internal temperature between seven to 10 degrees lower than the ambient temperature,” he said.
“I suppose it’s fair to say if that machine is getting old or has developed a fault somehow, Murphy’s law being what it is, something will go wrong and it will fail.”