With a set of ambitious carbon and energy reduction targets, the University of Worcester frequently ranks as one of the most sustainable universities in the country. But when the 30 year old boiler plant on its St John’s campus had become susceptible to breakdown, the decision was taken to invest in a new energy centre capable of safeguarding a greener future.
Since being granted university status in 2005, the University of Worcester has maintained an enviable sustainability record. It was ranked 4th out of 154 in the 2017 People & Planet University League of the UK’s greenest universities, was the first English University to achieve EcoCampus Platinum status in June 2010, and was only the second to gain ISO14001:2015 for all of its campuses. Despite all of this having been achieved in the relatively recent past, the university has now set itself the challenge of reducing its carbon emissions by 40% from the base levels it set in 2005.
The need to maintain that high level of performance, coupled with an increase in expected standards from students paying an average of £9,000 in annual tuition fees, has amplified the pressure on the university’s assets. A consequent requirement for a more resilient and controllable heating and hot water infrastructure, led the university to replace its 30-year old boiler plant with a modern energy centre, as Mark Evans, Assistant Estates Director explains:
“Having served the university for over 30 years, our previous plant had reached the point where boilers were prone to regular breakdown, and, due to the age of the system, spare parts had become increasingly difficult to source. This left us in an extremely vulnerable position in terms of reliability as well as efficiency.
“The University of Worcester is also a relatively new university and has grown substantially in recent years, doubling both our student numbers and building footprint. It’s very important for our students to have absolute comfort and high-quality facilities. The increasing pressure placed on universities by the rise in tuition fees and demand for its assets due to extended teaching periods, means that we need a resilient system to provide sufficient comfort to our students.”
A phased approach
The refurbishment of the energy centre, which was conducted in partnership with construction consultants, Ridge and Partners; and contractor, Envirotech; took place in multiple phases over a five month period spanning spring and summer. This ensured that the existing plant could be stripped and have new equipment installed without causing disruption to the university’s core operations. This was particularly important given the energy centre’s status as the main source of heating and hot water to the nearby kitchen and dining facilities, plus three other significant buildings on the campus; including its largest building, which houses several lecture theatres and other specialist teaching facilities.
The estates and maintenance teams at the university worked closely with another renowned Worcester-based organisation – Bosch Commercial and Industrial – to replace its end-of-life boilers with four 1,200kW floor standing, condensing models. Boasting compact dimensions and 97% efficiency, each 8000 F stainless steel condensing boiler also uses intelligent water flow and provides the ideal conditions for optimum condensation which, in turn, deliver high standard utilisation ratios.
The new boilers were supported by the installation of three high-efficiency, 500l calorifiers, six twin head pumps, and zoned configuration of pipework within the energy centre.
Once the boiler installation was complete, a subsequent phase of the energy centre overhaul saw the primary heating distribution pipework replaced, and new system controls introduced to aid the overall performance of the system.
Mark Evans continues: “Before the new energy centre came into play, there was no way to control the heat being sent into our buildings – it was simply either on or off. Now, thanks to much more intuitive technology and the addition of BMS-compatible controls, we have a resilient and controllable system, which makes the world of difference. We’re not afraid to turn the boilers on as we know they’re always going to react to demand, we can access spare parts very quickly, and we have a team of engineers who are comfortable working on the system if required.”
The installation has resulted in a 24% reduction in gas consumption. Not only that, but lengthy periods of downtime are now a thing of the past, while staff have been boosted by the peace of mind that maintenance will be much simpler as a result of advanced boiler design and greater spares availability. Such has been the impact of the new energy centre on the university’s fuel efficiency, a number of new condensing boilers have since been installed in over 12 buildings across its estate, predominantly in halls of residence.
For more information on Bosch Commercial and Industrial and its range of heating, cooling and hot water technologies, please visit www.bosch-industrial.co.uk