Environmentally Sustainable Buildings – Blue Cross, Burford

As part of our research into achieving design and construction of environmentally sustainable buildings that are economically viable, they expanded their development work to include buildings other than residential dwellings, but that still run on residential-based energy generation and consumption principles, i.e. not industrial in nature.

Following a search to find a suitable project to work on, we discovered a client who wanted to construct four buildings to the highest environmental standards possible, whilst creating a comfortable home for abandoned pets that would be sustainable (both financially and
environmentally), providing the most efficient, comfortable and modern facility possible, to aid their continued support for homeless animals. All of this had to be achieved within strict budgetary constraints.

The Company’s primary objectives were to develop a range of interconnected systems to maximise energy efficiency and provide the best heating, lighting and control possible, whilst minimising overall running costs. This would include:

  • Development of LED lighting – within a tight budget – to achieve appropriate, correct and efficient lumen outputs for the various rooms / spaces
  • Design of heating systems to achieve highly accurate and easily adjustable temperature / climate control for each room / area, ensuring the animals’ comfort in different scenarios
  • Incorporation of photovoltaic (PV) panels within the overall build to both provide a cheaper source of energy and to gain a payback tariff for the exporting of any electricity back in to the National Grid
  • Design of data fibre cabling and backbone to create an IT network linking all buildings, providing a much faster system to aid the charity in their work.

Additionally, the existing mains and sub-mains infrastructure was old, with no metering facility; and there were issues with intermittent power loss. So, there was a requirement to develop monitoring / metering of individual supplies, which would include the exporting of any PV generation.
Detailed meetings began in February 2016, with active work commencing in April. The project was completed in February 2017.

Throughout 2017/18 the Company monitored system efficiency, making adjustments where possible to further fine tune operating parameters. Long-term data collection is essential if system efficiency is to be improved. The data collected by the company is fed into a large database which contains data from other systems now operating in the real world. The company hope that detailed analysis of this data will help develop ever-more cost-effective systems.

Advance(s) Sought:

To design and build the most environmentally sustainable buildings possible within a limited budget, to provide efficient, comfortable, climate-controlled environments for animals without incorporating large energy bills. We needed to undertake value engineering on the cost of the various disparate systems to ensure the overall results fell within the client’s budget. Design and development of heating, lighting, electricity generation and IT network systems to find the most energy efficient and environmentally sustainable outcome. During this process the Company determined that part of the solution should include air-source heating combined with heat recovery to both reduce energy costs and improve climate control for the animals.

Technical Challenges:

A fundamental challenge here lay in determining how adaptable our company’s analysis, design and build processes could become. If efficiencies can be made throughout the entire procedure, then overall costs can be reduced, thus making these new technologies more affordable to a far wider range of clients. Using different build projects as test beds allows the Company to find solutions that can be utilised in other situations.

One of the first challenges was to devise a way to install the most appropriate PV equipment on to the existing electrical installation. Obstacles to completion included intermittent power loss. Previously, the client had installed two emergency generators for power loss back-up. This created a problem, as the generation of electricity from the PV would need to be isolated during power loss to avoid electrical back feeds from the inverter.

Due to variations between these various designs and build projects, development of different “disruptive” technologies is often necessary at each site. In this situation, development will require integration between solar (PV) electricity generation, existing National Grid power, on-site generators, air-source heating / climate control; coupled with LED lighting, etc. to provide a complete solution.

The heating solution would require extremely simple controls, to negate the need for continual training on account of the high staff turnover experienced by charities. Incorporating different heating solutions together (air-source, glass panel, under-floor) with one simple control is an important challenge to overcome.

The sheer size of the site and the varying nature of the rooms/spaces meant that determining the most efficient way to incorporate the electrical mains supply and data fibre cabling around the site required significant thought. In order to keep costs to a minimum the shortest cables needed to be fitted, but without creating extra expense by having to dig up floors, roads, etc. in order to lay them. Additionally, there was a requirement to future proof the site to some extent by building in an element of redundancy.

Resolution of Challenges, Project Outcomes and Future

Given that what was being proposed was very far removed from what might generally be considered as a standard, generic installation, most of the elements of this project required extensive research, development and design, which we undertook.

That said, although different in terms of the end use of the buildings when compared to human residential dwellings, comparisons could be drawn between this project and other housing projects previously undertaken, thus aiding with development of the whole environmentally sustainable concept. So, as with the Hill Top Road project for example, the Company worked through numerous configurations, developing systems as they went, to arrive at the most efficient set up for the available budget.

In order to resolve the PV equipment installation problem, the Company had to strip down the original generator change-over switch, along with the generator connections, to understand how it all worked as no existing instructions / diagrams were available. There were extensive meetings and conversations on the way the installation could be completed to achieve what the client required, whilst conforming to all Health & Safety and electrical regulations.

Development of the air-source heating as the primary source of climate control was troublesome in places, due to the difficulties in determining the airflow within and between different rooms / spaces. As a result, the ducting routes were analysed to determine thermal efficiency along their entire lengths. Additionally, various ducting materials were tested for their thermic properties, with the best (within budget) option used. Overall, the project to develop four new, energy efficient, climate-controlled buildings was a success. The buildings are environmentally sustainable, and all work was completed on budget. Sales have been generated off the back of this project, as we market their successes to a wider audience.

“Thanks to all Bojen Staff who worked on recent Bio Centre project for the excellent standard of work. We found Shaun very helpful and a great communicator with a very pleasant manner, always ensuring all variations were discussed with me first and service disruption kept to a minimum. The site was also left very clean and tidy. I hope to be able to work with Bojen again in the future.”

Mr T Davies | UK Bio Centre

“We were delighted with the entire process from beginning to end! The team listened to our requirements, made excellent suggestions and we felt cared for and valued as customers throughout the process.”

Graham Carson | Inca – Caring Accounting

“Just wanted to convey to you and your team that I was very impressed with the quality of your installation. The project was completed on time to a high standard with very few defects, which is a credit to your team.”

Brian | Hoare Lea Consultants

“I use Bojen electrical on many University Projects, they always provided an excellent service in terms of project management and quality of installation, I would have no hesitation in recommending Bojen to others.”

Rob Gregg • Deputy Electrical Engineer | Oxford University

“We have and would recommend Bojen Electrical. They are friendly, helpful and well-priced. We have been very pleased and impressed with the very varied work they have done for us.”

Sister Marie Ann | Headington Convent

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