Sep 19, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

Maximise energy and carbon savings in new-build educational developments

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With an increased range of energy-efficient heating solutions on offer to meet the low carbon requirements of Part L, Chris Meir looks at the options and how best to maximise energy and carbon savings in new-build educational developments.


As fuel prices continue to rise and a question mark falls once more on the security of our energy supply, it is more important than ever to use our energy effectively and efficiently. Becoming more energy efficient will also reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, help us meet our environmental commitments and in turn slow climate change.

New build developments are designed to use less energy in keeping with tighter environmental legislation.

Yet, according to a report by Carbon Buzz, there is an energy performance gap between how a building is predicted to perform and the actual results, with the average building consuming 1.5 to 2.5 times the predicted values. This figure can rise to as much as 6 times for heat consumption. With space and water heating typically responsible for the greatest slice of energy use in a building at around 60%, it is therefore crucial to engineer for optimum efficiency from heating.

But firstly, why the performance gap in heating? This is often due to a misunderstanding as to the most effective ways of integrating renewable heating technologies into a modern heating system. Good design, specification and installation are essential in order to achieve the maximum benefits and savings. It is therefore important to factor in at the design stage how the chosen renewable technology will work for a particular building and how it will operate with additional components in the heating system. One solution for bivalent solutions combining renewable and condensing technologies is to try to use, where possible, the same supplier as their in-depth knowledge of each product will support smarter system design and installation.

The arrival of new generations of traditional heating products brings a greater choice of solutions for energy-efficient heating and hot water that meet the carbon requirements and accommodate all budgets. However, as with renewables, smart system design and implementation is necessary if these products are to achieve the exceptionally high efficiencies of which they are capable.

Affordability was a key criterion for Nigel Griffin, Project Engineer at Cardiff University for the University’s flagship new 179-bed student accommodation, Talybont Gate. He specified six ‘super condensing’ Quinta Eco Plus boilers incorporating passive flue gas heat recovery (PFGHR) technology “as an affordable, quality solution… to provide reliable, low-carbon, energy-efficient heating and hot water with a rapid recovery time and good financial payback.”

Recovered energy

Boilers using PFGHR devices are super-efficient as they recover what would otherwise be wasted energy from the boiler and pass it back into the heating system for the benefit of space heating or cold water pre-heat.

At Talybont Gate, the recovered energy, equivalent to up to 15% of the gross input, is used to pre-heat the two 2000 litre cylinders that supply domestic hot water to the 179 en-suite bathrooms, effectively reducing the energy required to heat the water and maximising carbon and energy savings. Not only was installation made easy with these prefabricated units, but for Mr Griffin, the specification of the super condensing PFGHR boilers is an important contributory factor in Talybont Gate’s forthcoming assessment for BREEAM ‘Excellent’ status.

Sunderland College opted for condensing technology when it came to specifying the heating equipment for its newly-opened £22m Sports and Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) facilities. They chose to use two new generation, high efficiency condensing boilers in a well-designed heating system that David Wright, Director at Desco and M&E Consulting Engineer on the project, described as “one of the best installations that we have ever seen”.

Today’s clean-burning gas condensing boilers are widely considered the bridge to decarbonisation as they offer both minimal carbon and NOx emissions together with exceptionally high efficiencies. With their small footprint, ability to be installed side-to-side and modern design that allows them to be disassembled into parts for easier access, they also enable more efficient and flexible design in the smaller plant rooms often found in new build developments. From a financial stance, they are also the cost-effective option, offering speedy returns on investment. Highly effective and efficient, the Remeha Gas 310 Eco Pro boilers at Sunderland College assisted in meeting the ‘Very Good’ BREEAM target rating achieved by the Sports and VPA buildings.

Correctly sized, fitted and controlled, biomass heating systems are an effective and high performance provider of low carbon heating in new-build developments at schools and universities. The popularity of biomass is boosted by the government-backed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which was introduced to assist with the initial outlay costs. Payments, administered by Ofgem and made quarterly over a 20-year period, equate to around 15 to 20% return on investment, with one school reporting receiving as much as £25 to £30K a year. While biomass heating systems deliver significant carbon reductions compared to fossil fuel alternatives, they also require more space and maintenance.

Natural achievement

Biomass has proved a successful choice at the £8m eco-teaching centre known as PA@G (Pentref Addysg @ Glynllifon), at Glynllifon, Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor’s land-based campus near Caernarfon that has scooped numerous awards for its sustainable design. At the heart of the BREEAM ‘Excellent’ building is a low-carbon Remeha 120kW biomass boiler fuelled by woodchips that the College manufactures sustainably from its own surrounding woodland. “Our aim throughout has been to create the most environmentally-friendly, sustainable building possible,” explained Sam Faire, Estates Manager at Meirion-Dwyfor. “So it’s a satisfying achievement to be able to use our own natural resources to fuel the heating system.”

Manufacturers have risen to the challenge to improve the heating efficiency of our new-build developments with new and improved technologies. Now, we in the building services industry are actively working more collaboratively with initiatives such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) to improve building performance efficiencies and bring further long-term savings in maintenance and operation to end-users. At Remeha Commercial we look forward to helping more educational establishments schools become energy smart with our range of high performance, low-carbon, energy-efficient heating solutions.

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