13th June 2023
Building a better, cleaner and healthier future for residents and visitors alike, is a key success factor for Sunderland City Council as it strives to grow a dynamic, vibrant and healthy smart city.
And becoming carbon neutral – both as a council and as a city – is a key part of this growth as we recognise and commit to global sustainability objectives and ambitious targets set out in our city-wide Low Carbon Framework and in Sunderland City Council’s Low Carbon Action Plan.
As we make progress towards this goal, we know that it requires a strong partnership approach to pool expertise, resources and delivery. One particular key partnership has seen the council and Digital Catapult contract with Nomad Energy Solutions (Nomad) for a pilot project, based on council-owned office buildings, with the aim of building a roadmap to enable council buildings to become net zero by 2030.
Two buildings were chosen for the pilot:
The scope of work for the pilot was to:
A principal focus for both buildings was fossil fuel heating, which was identified as the area offering most affordable impact from the project by employing energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation key measures.
The Evolve building is air heated by a refrigerant heating and cooling system, supported by a separate ventilation system providing tempered air. To understand the energy performance of the buildings, data was obtained from the energy utility providers, the Council’s Trend Building Management System (BMS), drawings provided by the council and a sensor array installed by Nomad collecting data on temperature and CO2 levels.
Nomad used the insights generated from the data analysis to identify quick wins in terms of energy performance improvements, leading to CO2 and cost reductions.
Nomad’s recommendations surrounding the process to decarbonise the Evolve Centre were:
At Leechmere, the building units have separate heating and ventilation systems, but the incoming electricity and mains gas are for the entire building. To understand the energy performance of the building, data was obtained from the energy utility providers, drawings provided by the council and a sensor array installed by Nomad collecting data on temperature and CO2 levels.
Nomad again used the insights generated from the data analysis to identify quick wins in terms of improved energy performance, leading to CO2 and cost reductions. Principal early findings focused on reducing average room temperature and balancing/segmenting the heating system to reduce energy usage.
Nomad made the following recommendations around the process of decarbonising Leechmere:
The move towards net zero can be planned while the existing building systems are in the process of optimisation to establish a new baseline based on the changes recommended. This minimises disruption to ‘the norm’, whilst improvements are embedded.
Change was able to be actioned quickly at Evolve, working closely with Sunderland City Council’s Energy Management team. One example is that, based on the recommendations,
Sunderland City Council has reduced the frost protection burner setpoint for the ventilation heat recovery unit from 15oC to 5oC and has cut gas demand by 50% with no capital investment costs. This is expected to save approximately 15 tonnes of CO2e annually. Solar PV is also now installed and will be complemented by battery storage shortly.
Nomad identified another potential energy saving at no cost by ensuring an optimal temperature was maintained in the building depending on the time of day. During office hours the building is now maintained at 21°C, out of office hours this temperature automatically reduces. Since the building is generally not occupied at night, the cost saving by a night setback is estimated to be around £6k annually.
Similarly, at Leechmere, Nomad identified further energy saving potential simply by reducing the electric frost protection setting for the AHU.
The next tranche of optimisation actions can be delivered at both locations over the next 6 to 24 months and will save energy and money, reduce CO2 and stabilise energy profiles.
Smart building solutions and the more efficient management of energy, building management and usage – and an approach which is strategic and co-ordinated, aligning to requirements for EV charging infrastructure and wider building maintenance – are essential to drive our journey to net zero and ensure ongoing efficiency improvements.
Sunderland City Council and Nomad are also now exploring options to scale up the solution to the council’s wider estate.