I can HFC for miles

Shaun McCarthy

March 23, 2009   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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Last week I was invited to discuss our design and procurement reports live on BBC Radio 4. They opened with questions about the most controversial issue: the use of HFC refrigerants in building air conditioning systems.

HFCs are particularly potent Greenhouse Gases. 1 Tonne of HFC in the atmosphere is equivalent to 2,000 tonnes of CO2. Unlike most key environmental impacts, the ODA have never had a policy on this issue despite our recommendations that they should.

This has come home to roost in the architecturally impressive aquatic centre. Although no decision has been made at the time of posting this article, the use of 1.5MW HFC chilling capacity is under consideration. The rationale being that significant extra costs are involved and offsetting the emissions would be much cheaper.

Offsetting is appropriate only if there is no other option available, like flights for competitors. In this case an option is available and could have been considered earlier.

Had the ODA developed a policy and incorporated non-HFC cooling earlier in the design phase I suspect much of this additional cost could be avoided. Even if additional costs are required, government needs to decide if they wish to use this as an example of the investment in green technology and jobs that we are all hearing about.

In the final analysis, I don’t think we can point the TV cameras at the most iconic building of the “Greenest games ever” with a clear conscience if we know it contains a dirty secret in its plant room.

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