"As a condo dweller in a building constructed without the foresight of central
air conditioning, I’ve been feeling the effects of climate change more acutely
than ever, as have my neighbors. Every summer seems to bring new temperature
records, transforming my once comfortable urban haven into a sweltering hotbox.
What was once a luxury, air conditioning, is fast becoming a necessity in this
Climate change is just one of the megatrends of the past and coming decades.
Longer running megatrends are population growth and urbanization. With massive
automation of agriculture and resource extraction over the past century, the
number of people living in rural areas has dropped globally, while the number
living in cities has skyrocketed.
While North American TV shows and movies might make it seem as if the world
lives in detached homes in the suburbs, the reality is that only about 1% of
the world lives that way. Even in those sprawling American suburbs, 20% of the
residents live in multi-unit residential buildings. Outside of Australia, every
country in the world lives much more in flats, condos, townhomes, and terraces.
In Asia, 90% of the populace lives in apartment or condo buildings.
And the further you get from the equator either north or south, the greater the
likelihood that multi-unit residential buildings don’t have air conditioning.
The further you get from the equator, the faster the temperature is rising in
fact, with Canada seeing twice the average heating as places further south. As
I’m experiencing here in Vancouver, living without air conditioning is not
really viable any more. And if you’re a condo owner, it can be a problem for
resale of your unit. As one of my favorite real estate agents, the one who
helped me find this place a few years ago when we finally settled down again
after our decade of trotting around the world with my roles in Latin America
and Asia, told me recently, a condo not having built-in air conditioning is a
hard no for an increasing number of buyers. It’s not a point of negotiation,
it’s a show-stopper. They won’t even look at the unit. Portable AC units don’t
count, it has to be built in.
Another big factor in this is that the city where I live is requiring new homes
and residential buildings finished in 2025 and later to be built with heat
pumps. It’s a public health issue in part, as despite our very temperate
climate here in southern British Columbia, people are starting to die from the
heat, 619 in the province in a week in 2021 and another 16 the following year
in another hot week. Virtually all hyperthermia deaths occur indoors and
unsurprisingly mostly in the places where most people live, the Lower Mainland.
But it’s also a climate change and electricity supply strategy, as heat pumps
obviously don’t burn natural gas in the winter to keep people toasty, but also
use a third of the electricity as baseboard heaters do, helping substantially
with the province’s and cities’ efforts to be part of the solution without
overloading the grid.
What that means is that the condos in our building will suddenly start being
compared not to the vast majority of suites that don’t have air conditioning,
but to a rapidly growing number of new buildings that have it built in from day
one. That’s a recipe for condo value differentiation, and not in our favor.
What to do, what to do?
Well, I’ve been living this and driving through a solution for my building, so
I’m going to share my findings to date to assist others in my size 11 shoes."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics