Climate change is not only caused by internal combustion engines. According to the International Energy Agency, electric motors and systems in machines and appliances account for over 40% of global electricity consumption. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) fall into that category and are used in huge numbers in buildings around the world.

Air conditioners alone produce enough heat to increase urban temperatures. They also emit very potent greenhouse gases. What’s more, with the planet warming and the growing economies investing in more air conditioners, global electricity demand will keep increasing along with the harmful emissions.

With this growing problem facing all economies, energy needs to be used better and more efficiently in buildings of all shapes and sizes. The use of motors and pumps in building systems that maintain the interior environment at a comfortable level will only increase, requiring more electricity to produce them and causing more harmful emissions to be released during the manufacturing process as well as during use (depending on the machine).

Greener designs

The beginnings of sustainable building design were not an immediate and universally accepted idea. In 1990, Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) was launched. 10 years later, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released criteria for improving the environmental performance of buildings through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for new constructions. Other initiatives followed after that.

These ideas are now becoming much more prominent with LEED including rating systems for existing buildings and even whole neighborhoods. Local governments get involved, as exemplified by New York City’s Local Law 97, which places carbon caps on most buildings larger than 25,000 square feet from 2024 onwards with the caps becoming more stringent over time. Their target is achieving an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

National requirements and local priorities differ, but some organizations and local councils aim to go beyond the current expectations and practices to reach more ambitious goals.

The future

Whole edifices, structures, and even city areas can reach environmental goals set by their governments and independent organizations if we improve the technology involved in cooling and heating buildings. Implementing scalable motors and pump motors that are smaller (and therefore use fewer materials during their manufacture) would already contribute towards machines and appliances being greener.

But the bigger step would be making these motors and pumps more efficient, which would use less electricity and lower city emissions. Because it’s not only about removing harmful substances from air conditioning units. It’s about total system efficiency and the amount of energy used. System efficiency matters for the products’ end users, the manufacturers’ bottom line, and the environment. With more efficient motors and pump motors, everyone would benefit.