The NHS generates some 18 millions tons of carbon and carbon dioxide per annum, around 30% of public sector emissions, of which 22% comprises energy used to light, heat and cool its buildings. Stringent targets have been set for energy use reduction, with a 15% efficiency saving required of the NHS between March 2000 and March 2015. The Government is committed to reducing CO2 emissions by 26% below 1990 levels by 2020, and by 60% below 1990 levels by 2050.
The related increased risk of summer overheating could have a potentially disastrous effect on the NHS' ability to provide effective and safe patient care while meeting these targets. The installation of energy-intensive cooling systems is problematic. But the adoption of alternatives is tempered by very real concerns about the perceived risks to safe ventilation and patient well-being.
The Design and Delivery of Robust Hospital Environments in a Changing Climate (De2RHECC) project is investigating economical and practical strategies for the adaptation of the NHS Retained Estate to increase its resilience to climate change whilst meeting the onerous emissions targets. Detailed refurbishment strategies are being devised and the potential barriers to their implementation considered along with our other project objectives.
This project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (2009-2012). The Project Team headed by Professor Alan Short of the University of Cambridge Architecture department has considerable experience in healthcare design research, and has good links with NHS Trusts, policymakers, and industry, all of which should maximise impact.