Gloucestershire College: an ambitious net zero retrofit ahead of its time
Gloucestershire College provides higher and further education from three campuses in Gloucester, Cheltenham, and the Forest of Dean.
Completing an ambitious retrofit heating network in July 2022, it is one of the first colleges in the country to provide an off-grid heating solution, 28 years ahead of the Government’s 2050 education decarbonisation goal.
The system is powered by ground source heat pumps using solar panels. A battery storage facility on site is operated by smart energy controls to optimise efficiency.
Infinitas was appointed to support the heat network development and plant room amendments needed to control the new heating network and worked alongside partners, and the developer Hillside Environmental Services, to develop a fully integrated off-grid system.
Maximising efficiencies with leading technology
Carrying out detailed site investigations, Infinitas took the time to produce in-depth energy modelling to assess the current heating requirements and generate thermal profiling of how the building and system were currently used.
This data was then used to determine the exact heat pump size requirements and storage needed to support the college’s current and future use.
Using an innovative science-based simulation software called Hysopt, the whole system was mapped out to check that the set-up generated maximum efficiency for their usage with no impact on thermal comfort in the building.
A first for the industry
As one of the only colleges in the UK to complete such building work, one of the biggest challenges for the project was retrofitting the existing building heat emitters and distribution.
Upgrades to the existing plant room allowed hydraulic bypasses to be removed and variable speed pumps to replace fixed pumps helping to create a more efficient system. Air handling unit batteries were also replaced to allow high efficiency, low flow temperatures to be achieved. The gas-fired hot water system was also replaced with low temperature hot water storage using energy from the heat pumps.
Supporting a smooth transition
As a busy higher education campus, it was important that work didn’t affect the education of thousands of students on the site. Keeping the old system running until all the building works were complete allowed the systems to be easily switched over at the last moment to minimise disruption.
Installing any ground source heat pump produces challenges as you deal with uncertainties on the ground and building side. However, Infinitas were always available to talk through the next steps, demystify the process and provide the answers needed to keep the project moving.
Gloucestershire College now has a heat pump network that will continue offering low-carbon heating and energy for many years to come. An important step in leading the decarbonisation of education facilities of the future by creating a campus for future generations which is now purely powered by renewable energy.