Heat pumps can help to power the recovery
2020 will always be remembered as the year that Covid -19 swept the globe and caught us largely unawares. Most governments were not prepared and neither were industries, businesses and boardrooms.
Now, with the UK and most of Europe facing a ‘second wave’, it looks like there are still some hard months ahead. However, we also must start the rebuilding process with entire sectors resetting and many redefining their purpose and services – hospitality, travel, tourism, entertainment, sport, to name a few. And what of building services?
Lockdown and working from home has turned conventional wisdom on its head. However, at the moment of greatest risk, there is also great opportunity, and the building services industry is uniquely placed to add value to the rebuilding of the new economy and in helping to fulfil the promises of the green agenda.
We are entering a post-Covid world where there is a real mixture of economic factors, trajectories and trends which affect the socio-political landscape, regulatory frameworks and public behaviours.
There are also many disruptive technological changes – often characterised as ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ – and one of the key challenges for the industry is to innovate, invest in its workforce and ensure that its products and services are sustainable against this new backdrop.
In the case of building heating and ventilation systems, that means 20, 30, 40 years and more, which is why the industry needs to take a strategic approach because decisions we make now will have long lasting effects on running costs, carbon emissions, building safety and occupant comfort.
As well as technical innovation, this calls for strong leadership, rigorous long-term planning coupled with the agility to change direction quickly, and a fresh look at business and corporate strategy in a Covid and post-Covid environment.
One example of the changing socio-political landscape is the UK government’s plans for a ‘green recovery’ powered by low carbon solutions. The ambition for net carbon zero by 2050 can’t be faulted whether or not it is realistic or achievable. It is a clear aim that has the potential to hugely increase demand for low carbon solutions like heat pumps and hybrid heating and hot water systems.
However, satisfying this demand and ensuring installations continue to achieve high performance and reduced carbon emissions throughout their operating life will depend on the ability of our industry to innovate around four key areas in the value chain:
• the quality of system design and its adaptation into both new and existing commercial buildings.
• the effectiveness of installation,
• the service that underpins commissioning and maintenance,
• and investment in staff training.
This will ensure that the installations will continue to operate and achieve high performance not for just years, but for a lifecycle of decades.
We have talked about adopting a ’whole system’ approach for many years, but it has only been embraced piecemeal because it requires everyone to consider each part of the value chain – and look for long-term value rather than short-term capital cost savings.