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Building Construction, Environment

Every fraction of a degree counts as air temperatures yet again top the 1.5°C warming threshold

Boon Edam Australia 5 mins read
Beauty and energy efficiency go hand-in-hand in architectural masterpieces, such as the Berlin Cube, which uses Boon Edam architectural revolving doors to conserve energy and reduce emissions.

By Michael Fisher*


Environmental scientists and editors have been ringing alarm bells over the last month about the fact that monthly global air temperatures have been up over the pre-industrial times’ level by 1.5°C for the 10th consecutive time.


The Guardian group published a poll of some of the world’s top climate scientists who, alarmingly, said they expect global warming to blast past the 1.5°C target the Paris Agreement benchmarks as the long-term warming limit.


As architects, building specifiers, and green building experts such as NABERS assessors know, the Paris Agreement's central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C.


To achieve this, Australia and the other 170-plus signatories to the agreement understand that to limit global warming to 1.5°C, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030.


So this is a spectrum in which every fraction of a degree matters if we, as the driest continent on earth, are to avoid – or even moderate – extreme temperatures, extreme weather events, and severe water stress.


Boosting the energy efficiency of Australia’s built environment will be integral to Australia’s response to bridging the gap between emissions reductions currently being achieved and the Paris Agreement targets and reductions required.


This gap between emissions reductions targets and actual achievements is happening against a background of countries around the world, including Australia, continuing to expand their total built environment, contributing to emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.


Australia’s existing stock of commercial buildings is already responsible for about 24 per cent of per cent of this country’s total annual electricity consumption, according to the final report of the Commercial Building Baseline Study prepared for the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW).


And as Australia’s stock of non-residential buildings surges past a million for the first time in its history, energy experts are looking at ways to reduce the power consumption of both new and existing commercial buildings.


Energy and HVAC savings escape out the front door


Before I discuss energy savings, let me clearly declare my interest as the Managing Director of Boon Edam Australia, the local arm of the Royal Boon Edam architectural revolving door and security entrance operating in 27 countries.


Tens of thousands of our doors – which operate energy efficiently on the “always open, always closed” principle – are used worldwide to maintain comfortable temperatures in buildings while minimising energy losses and excluding noise and pollutants.


And please let me say up front that, as a building, construction, and energy utility specialist for more than 20 years, I am also keenly aware that there is no one single, simple answer to conserving energy in buildings and reducing emissions. That is a hugely complex question, as architects, builders, HVAC engineers and Green Building authorities well know. As a globally respected company, we certainly do.


However, given that each and every proven method of reducing buildings’ energy consumption and emissions count towards a better overall total building result, my question is: Why does Australasia not use revolving doors more widely to curtail energy losses? Because:


  1. Environmentally aware architects, engineers, and builders have known for decades that revolving doors save energy by reducing losses of expensively heated or cooled HVAC air. Revolving doors also counteract the “stack” effect of losses to the exterior created by high-rise lifts. The tight seal of revolving doors is an engineering and design fact, not an opinion.

  2. The globally respected Massachusetts Institute of Technology found in a study in 2006 that, when comparing the performance of revolving doors with swinging doors in one of their buildings, the swinging door allowed as much as eight times more air to pass through the building than the revolving door. Their study into building for a sustainable future again underlined that the engineering and design advantages built into revolving doors are fact, not opinion.

  3. Particularly in the US and Europe, architects and engineers are selecting revolving doors not only for their aesthetic appeal and security benefits, but also have energy conservation and sustainability at the top of their lists. One major recent example was The Exchange House in the Broadgate Estate of Central London where leading architectural practice, Piercy&Co, was commissioned to reimagine the ground-floor reception, improve tenant amenities and fit out 7,618 sq M (82,000 sq. ft) of office space to a CAT A refurbishment standard within in the sustainable, pedestrianised estate.

  4. Scientific and professional validation was taken a step further recently by Boon Edam software developed in partnership with one of the world’s leading technical universities, Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). The software is used to give architectural, building and facility management companies a scientifically validated yardstick to measure the savings of their energy-saving doors. Modelled for East Coast major centres, for examples, it shows the payback period for installing a revolving door, instead of a less energy-efficient sliding door, is shrinking rapidly as energy prices accelerate quickly. At current energy prices, Melbourne has the quickest payback time of four years, with Brisbane next at 4.9 years and Sydney at 5.7 years and shrinking. Naturally reduced payback times vary from real building to real building. The software is available to professionals in Australia and New Zealand who wish to compare results over different buildings in different areas. 

Upfront cost vs long term savings of revolving doors


With the potential energy savings and resulting pollution reductions possible through revolving doors, the uptake locally has not been as high as expected. After discussing this with local architects and specifiers, it’s clear that there’s a major reason: upfront cost.


Until recently, the lower upfront cost of sliding and hinged doors was a disincentive for building owners, managers, and refurbishers to consider more sustainable alternatives, even when architects and specifiers preferred them.


But all this is changing. Rapidly.  The dollars saved upfront can quickly be dwarfed by expanding energy costs and greater HVAC demands when sliding or hinged doors are specified.


And the price of energy continues to rise, demands on the grid continue to step up, and compliance with the Paris Agreement guarantee a major demand surge form electrification in the years immediately ahead.


For example: The switch from diesel and petrol to commercial electric vehicles, alone, will add more than 40 per cent to total electricity consumption nationally.


Australia’s Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) emphasises that is the impact coming from road transport alone – electrifying trucks, vans, and service vehicles of all sizes – but not counting rail or electrification of the 15 million private cars on Australian roads.


So the impact of the coming age of electrification – and the impact on commercial and industrial buildings – will be profound as the required network of literally thousands of industrial and commercial size chargers throughout Australia doubles and triples in number, and the capacity of them rises beyond 350-500 amps or more, with the draw on the grid increasing commensurately.


We all trust that green energy – solar, wind, battery storage, and pumped hydro – will play an integral part in smoothing out the huge boost in demand immediately ahead.


But all of us involved in the built environment will also have an expanding role to play in minimising demand on a grid that will be under huge pressure as 2030 approaches.


We maintain that revolving doors and energy conserving entrance design have earned a proven, scientifically validated place in this equation to:


  • Lower energy bills
  • Contribute to energy security and affordability
  • Reduce carbon emissions
  • Improve people’s comfort and health
  • Reduce wastage for the wider economy
  • Assist in lowering peak demand.


Can we afford to ignore this scientifically validated contribution to energy savings at a time when it is most needed: now, for 2030, and for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050?



* Michael Fisher is Managing Director of Boon Edam Australia, which is part of the privately owned international Royal Boon Edam group, which provides architectural revolving door and layered security solutions to some of the world’s largest companies, Fortune 500 companies, and companies in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea including financial, data and telecommunications, Federal and State Government, hospitality, health and age care, logistics, retail, and distribution facilities.

Contact details:

Jack Mallen-Cooper
PR Consultant
Whyte Public Relations
(02) 9901 4306


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