Creating a greener, cooler and healthier Medellín
On World Environment Day, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration will be launched. It's a global push to revive natural spaces lost to development – an effort that the city of Medellín already started several years ago.
After enduring years of high crime and violence, the Colombian city of Medellín faces a new threat – rising urban temperatures, driven by climate change. The city and its businesses are turning to new sustainable cooling solutions, both indoors and outdoors, to protect their citizens and workers.
Green Corridors programme
The City of Medellín responded to the challenge of rising urban heat by bringing people together and planting vegetation along busy streets and former waterways to create a better environment for everyone, while at the same time reducing city temperatures. The Green Corridors project provides shade for cyclists and pedestrians, cools built-up areas and cleans the air along busy roads. As a result of the project, almost 880,000 trees and 2.5 million smaller plants have sprung up around the city. As part of the initiative, Medellín’s botanical gardens train people from disadvantaged backgrounds to become city gardeners and planting technicians.
"The programme came from the need to connect people to nature – recovering spaces that were occupied by concrete."
Secretary of Environment Sergio Orozco
The programme has achieved significant heat reductions. From 2016 to 2019 average air temperatures in the city’s Green Corridors locations fell from 31.6C to 27.1C, and average surface temperatures dropped by over 10 degrees, from 40.5C to 30.2°C.
The programme also brought training and employment opportunities. From 2016 to 2019, 107 people from disadvantaged communities were trained as gardeners, and 2,600 workers were employed through the project.
Just as impressive are the numerous other benefits of the programme – including improvements in air quality. In the same three-year period, levels of the particulate pollutant PM 2.5 fell from 21.81 µg/m3 to 20.26 µg/m3, and levels of PM 10 from 46.04 µg/m3 to 40.4 µg/m3. Ozone levels dropped from 30.1 µg/m3 to 26.32 µg/m3. This brought huge health benefits. From 2016 to 2019, the city’s morbidity rate from acute respiratory infections fell from 159.8 per thousand inhabitants to 95.3. Cycling rose by 34.6 percent, and walking by 4 percent. The surge in cycling was aided by the construction of 80 km of new bike paths as part of the project.
Every aspect of the programme – from lower temperatures and better health to training opportunities – has driven progress towards a fairer, more equal city. It has created 1.5 million m2 of public space for people of all ages and from diverse economic backgrounds to enjoy together.
Cooling as a Service (CaaS)
Inside Medellín’s buildings, innovative business models are also delivering access to cooling in support of greater workplace productivity, energy savings and lower carbon emissions. Q Group in Medellín is a LEED-certified commercial building built in 2017, accommodating 100 offices. To offer its occupants the best comfort standards while optimizing capital expenditures, the building’s constructors and manager turned to MGM Innova Group who teamed up with AireVerde to design and supply a high-efficiency HVAC solution to deliver cooling to the building under a CaaS model. MGM Innova Group carried out the full investment and jointly with AireVerde operates and maintains the system, covering all associated costs including electricity and applicable insurance.
A monthly payment is billed to every office on the CaaS model. Common areas are charged a fixed amount every month, while individual offices pay a variable fee based on the amount of cooling they use. The main CaaS contract was signed between MGM Innova Group and the building constructor and manager for a term of 20 years, with the possibility to end the contract earlier. Each end user then signs an internal agreement with the building operator and manager when acquiring an office, accepting the cooling service as part of the operating expenses.
Thanks to CaaS, both the client and the final users enjoy high-quality cooling delivered by efficient technology, while focusing on their core business and avoiding capital expenditures. The system amounts to an annual energy saving of about 1.2GWh compared to an average cooling system, while GHG emissions are reduced by an estimated 440 tons of CO2e per year.
This story about sustainable cooling solutions in action was originally published in Chilling Prospects 2021.