Mendip ’Invest to Save’

Carrying out energy audits at more than 60 public sector buildings in the Mendip District Council area

Project duration: May 2006 to April 2008

Mendip ‘Invest to Save’ was a three-year project that involved CSE carrying out energy audits of 61 public buildings in the Mendip area of Somerset. These ranged from local authority offices, surgeries, police and fire stations, schools, libraries and similar facilities.

CSE worked closely with Mendip District Council which is committed to finding ways to reduce its and its partners’ energy use, and for whom this initiative was part of the ongoing 'Mendip Partnership for Energy' project.

Each audit lasted between one and three hours and covered a range of issues including:

  • building fabric – walls, roofs and windows
  • heating systems – boilers, controls, emitters and hot water
  • lights
  • electrical equipment - computers
  • building use
  • staff awareness

Short reports were written for each site which made recommendations for how energy use might be improved. These focussed mainly on behavioural changes, no-cost measures and low-cost measures. This was because no funding provision had been made for improvements requiring higher levels of investment, such as installing renewable energy technologies, new heating or lighting systems or building renovations.

Interestingly, despite the large variety of building types and uses, the audits identified common themes that applied across many, most or even all sites. See below for the main ones.

CSE’s Steve Andrews, who conducted around half of the audits also presented the collected findings of the project to senior figures from Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council.

He said: “Mendip deserves praise for grasping the nettle of energy efficiency and taking a good hard look at how energy is used across so many public sector buildings. This project represents a good start on the road to a lower-carbon future.

“If the issues we have identified are all acted upon, significant reductions will be made in local organisations’ energy use, and money not spent on fuel bills can be used for improved services for local people.”

The headline findings:

Better energy monitoring
Each site should be keeping a monthly record of all meter readings. This is a first step in greater energy awareness and helps pinpoint opportunities for reducing use and the evaluation of energy saving measures.

Heating
Overall, the project found inadequate controls, missing or incorrectly located thermostats, blocked heaters and a lack of understanding of controls right across the participating organisations.

Insulation
Most sites could benefit from loft and/or cavity insulation (where possible), improved glazing and draftproofing.  .

Hot water
Simple no-cost and very low-cost measures – e.g. installing time switches on immersion heaters and not storing hot water above 60 degrees - will achieve substantial savings.

Lighting
The simple act of switching off lights in unoccupied rooms or where the space is already flooded with daylight will save significant sums across all sites. Further savings are available through purchasing only energy efficient lamps. ‘Smart’ lighting controls are another solution – they cost money but quickly repay the investment.
 
Electrical equipment
Activation of powersave functions on all IT equipment will cut energy use right across the Mendip district council area. All users should turn off non-essential electrical equipment over night, and IT departments need to assist users in running their equipment (computers, monitors, printers) as energy efficiently as possible.

Cooling
Air conditioning is extremely energy intensive and should be avoided wherever possible. Simple no-cost measures to keep a room from getting too hot include off all non-essential electrical equipment (including computers) and lights and from the use of louvres and blinds.
 
Staff awareness
CSE considers that the greatest energy savings across the district are available through improved staff awareness of energy issues. An effective way of achieving this is through the use of Energy Champions - provided they have the full support of senior management. In turn, senior-management commitment to energy saving must be visible to all staff.
 
Finally, the audits demonstrated that a collaborative, joined-up approach is needed, both within the sectors worked with and across the district. All purchasing decisions across council properties, ranging from light bulb selection to new building design, must incorporate the remit of low energy and sustainability from the outset. All maintenance activities must recognise opportunities for improving the energy performance of the building.

Partners:

Stay up to date with our work - sign up for our fortnightly newsletter