Net Zero Cheshire's story
We have pledged decarbonisation of our 1950's headquarters building and continue to invest in this with the aim of making it net zero with features including EV charging points, solar PV panels on the roof, a low-carbon heating system, LED lighting and an energy storage facility. We are openly sharing our decarbonisation journey, documenting it as a blueprint, paving the way for others to adopt as they look embark on their decarbonisation journey and retrofit their own legacy buildings.
Our building decarbonisation plan has faced challenges, some of which were completely unpredictable. A pandemic that has made us pause and rethink how we use our building and reassess our priorities for it including a blockage in the Suez Canal that delayed the arrival of our new battery system . . . to name but a few.
But we are learning many other lessons applicable to any organisation that is considering implementing a scheme like this. We have already shared a case study on the project website about our experience converting to LED lighting. We have now updated our EV charging infrastructure, with ten 22kW chargepoints in use; a case study documenting our learning from this will shortly be going on the website.
The 372kWh lithium-ion battery storage system is now in place, the low-carbon heat system is now installed and the PV panels will be generating around 50kW zero carbon electricity in time for the sunny weather in 2022. A building control system will balance the needs of all these systems to ensure we prioritise low-carbon generation.
We look forward to being able to demonstrate these new technology and share our experience and learning via virtual and in-person tours in summer 2022.
Useful learnings from Net Zero Cheshire
Our experience of decarbonising our 1950s HQ building hasn't been straightforward. We will be sharing all of our learning from this journey on our project website. We also look forward to welcoming anyone interested on tours of our HQ building in Cheshire in the summer - both virtual and in person - when we will be able to talk more about the work we have done to the building.
The most fundamental advice that we could provide any organisation thinking about following our footsteps is firstly to collect as much data as possible. How much energy does the building use? Does that change by day and night, or weekday or weekend? How is that split by different processes and loads like heating and lighting? What is the operational 'base load' for essential equipment?
Secondly, think about how your building use may change over time. It may be as fundamental as whether you will still be in the same building in 10 years. This is something that the pandemic made very obvious to us when it accelerated subtle changes in the way we us our HQ building, speeding up a process that now sees some colleagues working at home more frequently. While changing working patterns alter how we use internal space, it also means smart controls of heating and lighting can be more rewarding if some rooms aren't going to be used every day. Changing working patterns may also have implications for how frequently EV charge points are potentially used.
The final piece of advice we would like to give here is to prioritise energy efficiency above any other measure. Reducing the amount of energy that your building uses is a first step in any decarbonisation plan and greatly increases the effectiveness of the more obvious technologies. One of the first measures we implemented was to install LED lighting around our building. This has reduced the amount of electricity we use to light the building, but also changed the ambiance of the building. We installed some smart controls at the same time that turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied, but with hindsight we should have installed more.
For most buildings, upgrading the insulation and thermal efficiency is also a 'must'; other technologies such as heat pumps can be unsuitable, or operate very inefficiently if the insulation is not sufficient. This should be done before any low carbon heating sources are installed as the cost-benefit for other equipment often relies on the insulation. Once these measures have been taken, a low carbon heating source such as a heat pump may be appropriate, however it should be specified to the building after it is updated so that it operates most efficiently.
We have gathered a great deal of information and are learning as we progress along our journey to net zero. As we complete bits of our transformation, case studies are being added to our website.
Net Zero Cheshire's metrics
Amount of carbon saved.
Reduction in operational costs.