Sustainable cooling for buildings is a huge opportunity for European startups

Sustainable cooling for buildings is a huge opportunity for European startups

Rising temperatures across Europe, in combination with an ever-aging population and rapid urbanization are not only making the population more vulnerable to heat, but have also increased the demand for cooling systems in buildings.

In fact, between 1980 and 2020, heat waves have caused 77,000 to 129,000 deaths in the 32 member states of the European Economic Area, the European Environmental Agency (EEA) estimates. This represents 86%-91% of the total fatalities caused by climate-related extreme events.

And with heat waves expected to be more intense and frequent than ever before, the agency warns that the EU is facing a crucial sustainability challenge: how to adapt its buildings in a way that ensures the citizens’ protection — and sticks to the EU’s objectives towards energy efficiency, energy independence, and climate neutrality in a socially just way.

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Although air conditioning is currently the dominant cooling strategy for business and residential buildings, it does come with two significant disadvantages.

First off, it results in CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions, especially hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The latter in particular has a global warming potential that’s thousands, or tens of thousands of times higher, than that of CO2.

Moreover, the increasing electricity consumption that comes with the growing use of air conditioning not only poses challenges for meeting the EU’s objectives on decreasing dependency on foreign fossil fuels, but also means that this cooling system might be not affordable for low-income countries.

Therefore, the EEA proposes the implementation of sustainable technologies that take into account the local context, including climate conditions, building types, urban density, demographic data, and the quality of the electricity grid.

The most efficient technologies for avoiding high energy demand include those that can reduce the cooling load by implementing passive cooling methods. Think of better insulation, optimal shading of glazed facades, radiative cooling, and passive solar shading in the form of green roofs and walls.