Main author

BRE Group Researcher Website
Last edited 26 Jul 2016

Air conditioning in non-domestic buildings

In June 2016, BRE published Study on Energy Use by Air-Conditioning: Final Report, BRE Client Report for the Department of Energy & Climate Change, HPR218-1001.

The report sheds important light on the electricity use of air conditioning in UK offices and retail environments. It presents the findings of a two-year study commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC - now subsumed within the newly-formed Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) providing insights into how energy is being used and the factors influencing consumption.

The study, led by Dr Andy Lewry, BRE's principal consultant, involved:

The main findings include:

  • Cooling in air conditioning systems may account for around a tenth of total UK electricity consumption.
  • Heat-waves are becoming more frequent across the UK, and in the South-East of England the number of heat-wave days per year has increased from 5 in 1961 to 17 in 2003.
  • The proportion of buildings with air-conditioning is increasing. The study estimates that, in 2012, some 65% of UK office space and 30% of UK retail space was air-conditioned.
  • The study estimates that cooling in offices typically uses around 40 kWh/m2 per year.
  • Air conditioning is frequently used even when buildings are unoccupied, for example in the evenings and over the weekends.
  • The analysis of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) indicates that more than half of all air conditioning systems in the UK are split systems. Although only 10% of EPCs have AC recommendations; these mostly relate to more efficient equipment, including variable speed drives, and reducing air leakage from ductwork
  • An analysis of the recommendations in air conditioning inspection reports, reveals that they tend to be generic with the focus on improving controls and maintenance.
  • Recommendations for updating the key inputs into DECC's product policy model of air conditioning electricity demand, and the development of an algorithm to estimate peak and monthly demand to supplement it.

BRE has also put together a dissemination plan aimed specifically at air-conditioning designers and technicians, building managers and smart system designers

The full report with appendices is freely-available here.

--BRE Group

[edit] Find out more

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki