The Eurovent Board Member Mikael Borjesson, Director Competence, Sustainability and External Relations at Swegon has been involved in the HVAC sector since the 1990s. For our ‘The Board Perspective’ series, we obtained his opinion on gender equality and some information on standardisations in the HVAC sector.
Mikael started his career within the building automation industry in Sweden from the early 1990s which led him to a number of years in the world of controls, services and programming. With several positions held in the field of HVAC, he has been focusing on strategic competence development throughout his Teams. With a passion for education and competence development as well as working in cooperation with experienced colleagues within Swegon and other stakeholders, he has gathered a solid knowledge of ventilation and indoor climate including building automation. The Eurovent Team asked him a few questions in relation to his experience and perspective on some issues in the HVAC sector.
Do you think there are any measures in place across Europe regarding gender equality in the HVAC sector and what is it that has to be done to increase equality?
To be honest, there are initiatives ongoing, but we are still in an early phase. We see some tendencies for increased female attraction to technical universities which is normally a platform for the industry, but still the number is far from equal. Data could be easily found in the European Union’s “She Figures” report and similar publications. So what to do? In the technology sector, women still trail their male counterparts in terms of salary, leadership roles and representation in Boards. The easy answer which then comes forth is that this is exactly what needs to be addressed and in time, changed to an equal and balanced approach.
We might also need to describe our industry somewhat different to attract young talents including females. We are seen as a technical industry, which in many ways is completely true. But we are also in the business of making people feel well inside the buildings as well as keeping everyone healthy. We are a key player in the struggle for reducing the global carbon footprint. I have personal experience of a totally different interest from the audience depending on how we tell the story of what we are conducting as an industry or a company.
We might also stand in front of a gender perspective in the core of our business. It seems we systematically design buildings to suit men regarding the indoor climate. When we design buildings, we do so based on calculations, which are in turn based on assumptions of the standard inhabitant of the building. And this standard inhabitant, often decided on decades ago, is distinctly male. Looking at the average woman and the average man, we are of course very similar, but there are also clear differences in a number of physiological and cultural parameters. I believe this could be an area that needs some more attention and serious discussions within the industry and research community. One effective method is to spread more information about the industry, maybe through education in universities on catchy subject matters, innovative perspectives or even standardisations such as Lifecycle assessment, Environmental Product Declarations, and legislations like Sustainable Product Initiative. This in a way would attract all genders to take part in the HVAC sector.
What is the Lifecycle assessment and the Environmental Product Declarations, and how do these two have an impact on HVAC manufacturers?
Lifecycle assessment (LCA) and Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) in the building industry evaluate the environmental impacts of a building throughout its entire lifecycle. We can see that some HVAC manufacturers have already started to develop EPDs for their products.
Simply put, a lifecycle assessment in the building industry evaluates the environmental impacts throughout the entire lifecycle of a building, including upstream and downstream processes associated with construction, operation, and demolition. It is an aggregation of positive and negative environmental impacts of the associated building products, materials and services involved in the lifecycle of a building. As HVAC solutions often are responsible for a significant share of a building’s carbon footprint over its lifecycle, it might be time to have a closer look.
The Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) will help us out here. EPDs are an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the environmental impacts over a products lifecycle. By publishing EPDs, HVAC manufacturers and suppliers in Europe will disclose the environmental impacts of its products in a robust and transparent way. Until now, the most important factors of HVAC solutions have been the technical functionalities and the price. There is a good reason to believe that soon the environmental performance of HVAC products based on LCA results will become more relevant and visible. Based on customer surveys, I see a significant interest in EPDs for HVAC products from pioneering organisations and individuals across most European markets such as the UK and the Nordic countries. Implementing a lifecycle assessment is a good start in understanding the environmental challenges of customers and making it easier for them to meet their environmental targets.