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No More Window Pain: De-Lighted with watt we’ve done!

The Arthur Edwards building is the central hub of UEL’s Stratford Campus. It is used for teaching, office space for academics and staff, and houses a lecture theatre, kitchen, cafeteria and server room. Built in the early 1970s, it is a six-story reinforced concrete frame structure with full-floor elevation windows. One of the most-used buildings on campus, Arthur Edwards is consistently one of the highest energy users. In the most recent UEL Sustainability Annual Report, the building was number one in highest energy use intensity for electricity, and number three in natural gas use intensity. For both electricity and gas, it was the highest in cost per square meter.

Our interdepartmental approach was to study recommendations from planned preventative maintenance, the carbon management plan and our complaints log on thermal comfort to identify one building that would meet all the criteria for a year-long focus into improved sustainability, combining both low/no-cost measures and invest-to-save retrofits. Arthur Edwards fit the profile as a building that was highly energy intensive and in constant use, with an inefficient building envelope and lighting system that had been previously recommended for upgrade in UEL’s stock condition survey.

Starting in March 2017, UEL Sustainability kicked things off at Arthur Edwards with a building shutdown in support of Earth Hour to raise awareness of energy use in the building. The Sustainability team walked around the building with postcards about the shutdown, as well as tips for reducing energy consumption in offices. At 5pm, Arthur Edwards occupants gathered outside as the lights in the building were shut down. Attendees lit LED tealight candles in the shape of the UEL logo on the green space as a symbol of how everyone in the building has an impact on energy consumption.

UEL Sustainability worked with the UEL School of Psychology to develop a survey for Arthur Edwards occupants which asked about energy-related habits, such as shutting computers down at the end of the day, and what electric equipment could be found in offices. It asked respondents which building on the UEL Stratford campus they thought consumed the most electricity per square meter, with only 28% of people correctly guessing that it was Arthur Edwards. The survey asked respondents whether they would be willing to help close down the building earlier by hot-desking in another location like the library if working after 19:00 and if no, what they would need to change their mind. In recent months, this information is being used as UEL is developing a new energy policy, which will rework current space utilization by designating certain buildings for out-of-hours use, rather than keeping whole buildings open during nights and weekends for only a few occupants. The data will also help inform changes in policy related to timetabling, IT shutdown of computers and stricter rules on supplementary heating. This survey data was presented to Arthur Edwards occupants at a lecture hosted jointly by Sustainability and UEL Psychology, where lecturers gave a presentation on behaviour change and sustainability. The lecture was attended by academics, staff and students, and was hailed as a great collaboration between UEL schools and services.

We also wanted to make physical changes at Arthur Edwards that would result in definite energy and cost savings. The original single-pane windows in the building had been an issue for some time. They were ill-fitting, draughty and posed a safety risk since many of them no longer closed properly. Since they were old and inefficient, maintenance received constant thermal comfort complaints, numbers of which were above average across the estate. Though it was a large capital investment, UEL Estates and Facilities made room in the budget for new triple-pane windows, as it was in line with overall goals of thermal comfort and envelope improvement. At the same time, insulation was added to the cavities below the windows where none existed before. Brise soleil window shading was also added to help avoid solar heat gain. The window installation lasted four months, beginning in the summer of 2017 and completed in early October 2017.

In the six months since completion, there has been a cumulative reduction of 83,112kWh in natural gas use compared to the same six month period the year before. Even with average monthly temperature being colder this past December and February compared to last year, the building still used fewer kWh of natural gas in those months this year, showing that the building envelope is no longer losing as much heat. Even though this past March 2018 showed a 27.7% increase in gas use compared to March 2017, it was 37.2% colder on average this March compared to last March, showing a 9.6% “savings” that can be attributed to the building envelope improvement when taking into account the significant temperature difference. These gas savings so far in this six month period average 19.5% lower per month compared to last year, when taking into account weather compensation, and are equivalent to a carbon emissions reduction of 15,306kgCO2e (based on most recent DEFRA conversion factors).

UEL applied to the Salix lighting retrofit program in order to install LED lighting in Arthur Edwards at no up-front cost to the University. Over three months, 1027 new LED lights were installed throughout the building. Arthur Edwards occupants have given good feedback on the new lights, saying that they are an improvement on the old ones, particularly in the research labs. Annual kWh savings from the new lights will be equivalent to a carbon emissions reduction of 68,309kgCO2e.

The Arthur Edwards year-long project represents a new way forward for UEL to look at energy efficiency in our buildings. This comprehensive deep dive into one of our facilities has shown that it is worth adopting a strategy that encompasses both physical changes and low and no-cost engagement. In communicating our results with the building occupants, they have said that they feel more physically comfortable, more involved with the UEL community and more knowledgeable of the day to day energy consumption of the building they work in.

Update: UEL has won a 2018 Green Apple Award for our Arthur Edwards project. It was presented at the ceremony on the 12th of November, 2018 at the Houses of Parliament.