Energy smart upgrades for communal spaces

Who benefited from the Bristol Community Building Fund?

25 November 2014

A fund totalling £20k has been distributed to finance energy saving improvements in seven of Bristol’s community buildings. The grants from Bristol City Council will be used to upgrade windows, heating systems and install low-energy lighting; the vibrant Southbank Centre pictured below has just received funding for a new boiler. By making the communal spaces more efficient, it is hoped they will be more comfortable, cheaper to run, and able to offer expanded services using the money saved on energy bills.

For most recipients, the grants will allow for space-enhancing modifications that would not otherwise be made, or at least not so swiftly.

The Trinity Centre, a key arts provider in Bristol, has been awarded funding for LED lighting. Centre manager Emma Harvey said: “Whilst energy efficiency schemes are financially beneficial in the long-term, there is often an upfront outlay that is difficult for community groups with limited resources to afford. The grant helps to provide an element of match funding to enable the project to go ahead, with the difference being covered across energy savings made in the first year of the project.”

A non profit bike cafe and workshop, Roll for the Soul (RftS), has also had works funded by the scheme. The cafe’s director Rob Wall agrees that initial financial outlay can be an obstacle to energy saving refurbishment. “We'd been planning to make some improvements to our building for this winter, as we discovered last year that it gets pretty cold in here, and it was pretty mild in [20]13/14. So we'd already been trying to put aside a bit of money... but it can be difficult to do that as a non-profit organisation and with lots of other bills to pay.”

Sparked by the Bristol’s status as European Green Capital 2015, Green Partnership member St Mary Redcliffe Church, is using the money to help meet a commitment to up their environmental performance.  “We are very grateful for the grant, which will help to kickstart a programme of improvements which will allow us to become a significantly more environmentally-friendly organisation.” – Rhys Williams, research assistant at the church.

Many of the projects are still underway, but where changes have been made, the feedback is encouraging. “We've only done part of the planned work so far, improving the glazing and insulation in two of our first floor spaces, but we (and other building users) can already feel the difference.” – Rob, RftS.

The Greenway Centre is a business centre and local community hub in Southmead. Maintenance technician Dan Brown is positive about the changes made there, saying “The new windows in our buildings have had a massive effect on the wellbeing of the centres users. SDT [Southmead Development Trust] used to receive numerous complaints about the cold as early as September, due the age of the building and the degradation of its window frames. Now the new windows have been put in, a great difference can be felt.”

Savings on bills as a result of the energy saving measures are hoped to allow community groups to continue or extend important services.

The Trinity Centre has estimated that replacing all their lighting will reduce annual energy expenditure by nearly £3k. “This is a significant saving and helps us to continue to provide free and subsidised hall use to other community groups.”

At the Greenway Centre, “the money saved through decreased heating costs can be better used elsewhere such as community projects like the Southmead Festival”.

A similar scheme in partnership with Western Power Distribution has funded improvements in community shops, village and church halls, and community centres. The WPD Community Chest has been open to applications three times previously and financed a huge variety of energy efficiency measures.

If you know a community space that could benefit from an energy saving grant, keep an eye on our website or sign up to our community updates for information on future schemes.

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