Why we’re saying no to air con

Yesterday, as temperatures across the UK reached highs of over 30°C, the National Grid ordered the powering up of a coal-fired power station, due to increased electricity demand for air conditioning. This, at a time when scientists around the world are warning we need to urgently cut coal use.

Cooling buildings with air conditioning systems accounts for almost one tenth of UK electricity consumption.

In 2020, while working with Buttress Architects and Ingleton Wood to renovate our ballroom, we took a deliberate decision not to install air conditioning at Stretford Public Hall.

Following detailed modelling, we decided to rely on natural and mechanical ventilation, just like the Victorians would have done. We decided this was the most sustainable option, given the scale of our renovation project – helping to reduce our energy use and to keep our energy costs down.

This means that, if it’s hot outside, it will be warm in the ballroom too. Ceiling fans and built-in mechanical extractor fans improve air flow and ventilation, while we rely on the ballroom’s large windows to bring fresh air into the space.

And while this might make the ballroom warmer than it would be if it was air conditioned, we would prefer to have a warm room than to be contributing to the burning of coal during a climate crisis.