Planetary Health starts at a micro level…in the practice itself.

General Practitioners, unlike their hospital colleagues, have significant control over their working environment and input into the physical infrastructure of their practice. Best practice is what we continually aim for in terms of medical care. Why isn’t optimising the physical space we work in? To maximize the energy efficiency and sustainability of the buildings in which we spent large portions of our week?

By reducing the carbon footprint of the practice, it’s possible to reduce our monthly bills. We can showcase to patients what they could achieve in their own homes and workplaces too.

Easy to heat, easy to cool.

Building Energy Rating (BER

Most of our first encounters with a BER are when we’re looking for our first house and trying to decipher the estate agent language. Most of us don’t think to check the energy rating of the building we work in even though it may impact our comfort and patients. A BER of A1 is the most energy efficient. G is nearly equivalent to sitting in a tent on the side of a mountain, seeing patients while the winds flap your PPE around your head.


You wouldn’t buy a fridge that had a G energy rating, why would you tolerate it in a workplace? 2020 has made us more aware of the importance of good ventilation for purposes of infection control. It’s also important for air quality indoors and protecting the building from destructive processes like condensation and mould.


It may make sense to add a front door that automatically closes after use. This could reduce your heating bill in addition to improving staff comfort. Consider adding a shelter or porch to the outside of the premises to protect front desk staff from cold chills. This may have the benefit of allowing some shelter outside for patients or family members that cannot fit into a socially distanced waiting room.


Next check the windows – are they old, single glazed, or covered in condensation? If all the windows are large, single glazed and on the north facing side of the building, it’s evident that you could be losing huge amounts of energy.

Walls and Roof

The construction of the building is important to consider when looking at heat retention improvements. Two features particularly need to be considered – exterior walls and roof. When was the building constructed? A 1960s block built building might be a candidate for external wall insulation (grants may be available – find out more at

In a converted redbrick building, this may not be an option. Dry lining the interior walls could assist in keeping heat from leaking out. Take a look at the roof. Is it in good repair? You may need to get specialist advice but many tradespeople will identify issues and provide quotes free of charge.

Making improvements to the fabric of the building will reduce bills over time. This can reduce the carbon footprint of the practice. In turn, it can make the practice a more comfortable space for patients and staff. It will also improve the longevity of the building.

Water and Energy Use

In terms of water usage in the practice, is there scope for a reduced flow flush or taps in toilets or kitchen areas? Is there a single or double flush option on toilets allowing for less water wastage?

What is the source of the energy the practice uses for heating and electricity? How does your electricity provider generate their electricity? If you don’t know, make it your business to Google your provider and find out.  This can be a simple step towards reducing the practice’s carbon footprint simply by switching electricity provider.


Does the practice use composting bins for kitchen and food waste? Are there recycling bins in the practice? If so, are they easily accessible where they’re needed, in consultation rooms, communal areas, patient areas? Are there audits of the contents of the recycling bin and education of all staff on how to optimize this service?

A good first step could be to conduct an informal discussion among practice staff to see how instances of waste can be highlighted. Including all staff especially cleaning, security or building maintenance staff can raise awareness of significant potential energy savings.

Further information: has details of the various schemes available for support, and if you’re interested in learning more about how you can reduce your carbon footprint and your practice’s bills you can contact them directly for advice at or call 01 8082100.