COVID-19 Working Arrangements

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, IBECCS will temporarily be working from home, with effect from 16 March 2020 This means that post sent to the IBECCS office in Exchange House will only be picked up occasionally – we will give you an alternative address for postal deliveries if necessary. Our mobile phone number is unchanged, and we can set up meetings on Zoom and participate in many other videoconferencing systems including MS-Teams, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, etc.

Currently we expect to remain in this working mode until the autumn.

March 2020 – Exchange House

Moving office…

I’ve recently moved into a new office.  You might hope, nay expect, that I would have undertaken a detailed environmental appraisal of the benefits and carefully weighed up my new ecological footprint.  No, hardly at all!  In that, I am like everyone else – it’s location, location, location (and the availability of decent coffee).

IBECCS new office location in Central Milton Keynes

Actually I am probably doing myself a disservice.  The move was forced upon me – two working days before Christmas my office provider (I won’t name them, but they’re the global number 1 in their market) told me they had been unable to negotiate a new superior lease (ie. hadn’t been able to reduce what they were paying enough), so we were all being moved, and I was given a (very) shortlist of options.  And here it did boil down to location, location or location.  One had a view across a local park – but was next to a motorway junction, hard to reach by bus and had a free car park I might be tempted to use.  The second was in the city centre, close to my former office, but was a windowless cell (although it was above a leading craft brewery outlet).  And the third was in a new building, close to the railway station with the promise of secure covered cycle parking (and a branch of Pret two minutes’ walk away).  The station one won. Once this pandemic has survived (and even I, the perennial pessimist, believe that it must eventually) I will want to be back down to London for F2F meetings and energy/carbon audits. 

So I then started trying to find the new office’s environmental credentials.  It’s a newbuild, but on a brownfield site – even Milton Keynes has brownfield sites, as the lifespan of commercial building developments can be frustratingly short.  I can remember taking my son to bowling birthday parties in the Leisure Plaza – I may even have once scored a strike there!  But although it had only opened in 1990, the bowling alley was demolished around 2014 and, phoenix-like, a seven storey office complex has risen in its place.

The first thing was to find its Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). These are now centrally lodged in a corner of the gov.uk website and – as with most parts of the site – are less informative than they were before. Although this reveals that it has a rating of B26 (better than the D71 of the old office), the assessor who undertook the rating is no longer named. That’s a pity, as I would have liked to ask him/her how the certificate can simultaneously show that it has no air-conditioning (“Aircon Present No”), but that the main contributor or servicing strategy that contributes to the building’s emissions is “Air Conditioning”:

A little bit of digging shows that there is full air conditioning and the building has 15 Daikin VRV systems, essentially two per floor, and a control system that enables billing by floor, rather than simply dividing it on square footage.  What this means for air quality in a time of COVID is anyone’s guess.  I am, of course, WfH at the moment, so cannot yet say whether the ventilation strategy will work, especially in summer, as the building has large glazed areas.  Unlike my previous office, there is no gas, so the hot water for toilets comes from air source heat pumps, although hot water for the sinks adjacent to the coffee stations installed by my immediate landlord appears to come from an instantaneous electric source. Like many offices, externally it appears as a sealed glazed box.  Although this could set alarm bells ringing, Saint-Gobain feature it on their website:

Saint-Gobain COOL-LITE XTREME 50/22 was selected for the large expanses of floor to ceiling glazing and the 10 metre height, glazed reception, due to the products very high selectivity of 2.24 (ratio of visible light to solar heat gain). The product performance values maximise light transmission whilst reducing the need for expensive and non-eco-friendly air conditioning; perfect for this sustainable and low energy BREEAM accredited building.

That is hopeful at least; but I shall miss the ability to open a window that we had in my previous office (quite apart from the fact that I am now wholly internal).  And it’s only just over a year since the windows in my previous office were replaced and we had to fight hard to get the landlord to replace like for like with opening windows.

Good light transmission may also encourage natural use of daylight, although again for an internal office this is difficult.  Indeed the lighting strategy seems to be wholly automated – when I walk into my office the light comes on, whether I want it or not, and stays on for a period of time after I leave.  As I have only made one pre-lockdown visit, I cannot say how well this will work – or how sensitive to movement it will be.  I’m also unsure if the same strategy is used for those lucky enough to have external windows (and to benefit from that Cool-lite Xtreme glazing).  I have a nagging suspicion that this may have been influenced as much by a desire to eliminate the need to install light switches during the fit-out, as there are only fully glazed panels within reach of the door.  Equally, I can’t tell if corridor lights stay on 24/7 or if they are on a motion/daylight sensor combination. 

Saint-Gobain’s press release also mentions BREEAM, the leading assessment scheme for green buildings.  The offices appear to have achieved a “Very Good” rating, although are not shown on the BREEAM website map; while this might sound very good, there are two higher levels of achievement (excellent and outstanding).  This is perhaps a little unfair, though, as only a handful of buildings in Milton Keynes have better ratings and it is not easy to obtain a Very Good certificate.

BREEAM is not just about energy though, and includes a scoring for transport links.  The new building is let down perhaps by including an internal multi-storey car park, although with on car space for 545ft2 of floor area, provision is quite sparse.  More desirably, it apparently includes 12 EV charging spaces and 100 secure cycle parking spaces – all I have to do is find out where they are!  And of course, being 3 minutes’ walk from the main Milton Keynes Central railway station (and bus interchange) is a definite bonus, and there are plenty of public cycle hire points just outside the station, as well as dockless eBikes and eScooters in the vicinity.

Becoming a Chartered Environmentalist

Ian Byrne, Principal of IBECCS, has been a Chartered Environmentalist for over 10 years, and for much of that time has been one of the panel that assesses applications for chartership through the Energy Institute. The Society for the Environment (SocEnv) recently ran a webinar on how people can apply to become a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv), at which Ian explained what assessors like – or dislike – on applications.

The complete webinar is still available on YouTube, and provides practical advice on how to become a Chartered Environmentalist.

IBECCS links with GreenSCIES

GreenSCIES schematic (c) Cullinan Studios

Consumers and businesses based in UK cities stand to benefit from a revolutionary low carbon smart energy grid called GreenSCIES (Green Smart Community Integrated Energy Systems), being launched today (18 February) in London and the West Midlands, by project partners: London South Bank University (LSBU), Transport for London (TfL) and the London Borough of Islington.

Cleverly concealed underground, the new smart energy grid – which has currently reached design stage – will help to power inner cities of the future, revolutionising the way we live now and transforming lives, homes and businesses into sustainable energy districts, while tackling fuel poverty and the negative effects of climate change.

GreenSCIES aims to deliver a solution which can provide low carbon and low cost transport, power and heat to a total of 12,500 homes in the London Borough of Islington and Sandwell in the West Midlands.

When constructed, GreenSCIES systems will deliver low carbon heat, mobility and power to an estimated 33,000 residents and nearly 70 local businesses in Islington. The new smart energy grid will help to reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 80% (against conventional systems) while addressing fuel poverty by providing a significant reduction on consumer bills. The system will also deliver large reductions in pollutants while improving provision of local skills training and job prospects, helping to invigorate local economies.

As a fifth-generation energy network, GreenSCIES goes further than previous projects in the UK. The system works by sharing heating and cooling between buildings, to ensure a balanced energy supply across the network. Waste heat is captured from secondary heat sources – including offices, local data centres and the public transport network. The temperature of the waste heat is then raised or cooled using heat pumps before being distributed to homes, businesses and communities, all year round.  By drawing on waste heat produced by data centres that support the Internet, the smart grid will literally channel energy from the Internet to power homes, offices and transport networks of the future.

The impact of LSBU’s research for GreenSCIES reaches well beyond the capital and will be relevant wherever there are sources of unwanted heat, for example large data centres, industrial heat and mine water.

The smart energy network will generate power from renewable energy sources while connecting to the electricity grid and to electric vehicles. It will use artificial intelligence controls to connect flexible electricity demands from heat pumps and electric vehicles to intermittent renewable sources, including solar power – delivering clean, locally produced energy while reducing pollution and supporting a transition to low carbon transport.

The ground-breaking engineering science behind GreenSCIES has been developed by the GreenSCIES consortium – a collection of 16 business partners including a number of Small and Medium sized enterprises (SMEs), under the umbrella InnovateUK and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Ian Byrne, the principal at IBECCS, is working as an associate on the programme, alongside Consortio Limited , one of the full project partners, with a focus on the business model work stream .

For the latest information on the project, please visit the GreenSCIES website.

End to end transport emission calculations

Transport emissions are often one of the trickiest parts of an organisation’s carbon footprint calculation, especially when comparing indirect emissions from different modes of transport under scope 3. How can we decide whether rail or road is better? Are aviation emissions for belly freight always worse than shipping goods? How do we take account of passenger load factors when they can vary between time of day as much as between type of transport?

IBECCS is always keen to find practical solutions, while staying at the forefront of developing robust and clear calculation methodologies. So we’re pleased to report that Ian Byrne, principal, was able to represent the UK at the initial meeting of the working group developing an international standard for the Quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions of transport operations – which is intended to become ISO 14083.

Ian Byrne (4th from left) at the inaugural ISO 14083 working group meeting held at the US EPA National Vehicle & Fuel emissions Laboratory, Ann Arbor, Michigan, on 7-8 November 2019.

The meeting focused on the framework and scope for the proposed international standard, including both freight and passenger transport operations, as well as multi-modal transport chains. Designed to enable comprehensive end to end calculations, to enable clearer comparisons between transport modes, it will also include energy from transport hubs, including ferry ports, airports and railway stations, and associated facilities such as cold storage units while goods are waiting to be transferred between modes, as can be seen in the freight schematic below:

Freight transport chain emission calculation (from Figure 1, WD 14083)

Discussions also hinged on how to link the new standard to existing initiatives, including the European standard EN 16258 and the US Smartway program, whether or not default values should be incorporated, how to treat electric vehicles, and how to ensure that outputs are robust yet not too complex to be adopted widely.

Ian Byrne is working closely with colleagues on the BSI committee SES/1/7 to ensure that a wide range of UK opinions and expertise can be input into the deliberations of the ISO working group.

Cutting bills at a Yorkshire charity

Greenhouses and gardens in Yorkshire

IBECCS was recently called in to advise on options for cutting energy bills at a Yorkshire charity which has extensive gardens and greenhouses open to the public. Following an energy audit, our advice included considering:

  • Replacing oversized LPG boilers with pellet boilers, or using the large grounds area to install heat pump collector loops
  • Adding zonal controls to minimise the risk of heating greenhouses from the boiler (or heat pump) at the same time as opening vents on sunny spring days
  • Incorporating PV into new greenhouse roofs, simultaneously providing summer shading and generating power
  • Upgrading lighting systems with daylight sensors and LEDs
  • Improving access to electricity meters, or installing smart meters, to enable monitoring and targeting of energy use

Ian Byrne appointed to IES Council

Ian Byrne, principal at IBECCS, has been appointed as an independent Council Member (Director) and Treasurer of the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES) with effect from 17 July 2019.

The Institution is a membership organisation representing the full spectrum of environmental disciplines – covering fields as diverse as air quality, land condition, marine science and education – wherever you find environmental work underpinned by science. IES provides its Full members with two supportive routes to become a Chartered Environmentalist or Chartered Scientist and publishes a highly regarded quarterly magazine, environmental SCIENTIST.

The Institution of Environmental Sciences is a charitable organisation which promotes and raises public awareness of environmental science by supporting professional scientists and academics working in this crucial arena. As a seminal environmental sciences organisation, founded in 1971, the Institution is consulted by the Government and other interested parties on environmental issues. The Institution has strong ties with Higher Education and promotes and supports environmental science and sustainable development in universities and colleges both nationally and internationally.

Membership of the Institution offers stepping stones on a career path – from student to Chartered status, attracting professionals of high standing with significant specialist and interdisciplinary experience. IES is an international organisation with members in locations as diverse as Australia and Zimbabwe.

For more information about the Institution, please visit the IES website.

Transition Zero project successfully completed

The EU Horizon 2020 project “Transition Zero” has been successfully completed. The project was designed to test the suitability of UK and French markets for the innovative Dutch Energiesprong concept, where homes receive a deep retrofit, including the addition of wrapover external insulation, photovoltaic roof panels, and upgraded heating services. Among the publicly accessible deliverables are reports into the financial, technical and legal barriers that need to be addressed before the concept can be more widely used outside the Netherlands. However they also show a successful pilot with Nottingham City Homes in the UK.

Ian Byrne, IBECCS’ principal, was actively involved in the establishment of the project, which was led by the National Energy Foundation. He remains involved with Energiesprong in the UK as its company secretary. The results of the Transition Zero project, including downloadable documents can be found at http://transition-zero.eu/.

IBECCS to work closely with BankEnergi project

ISCF Prospering from the Energy Revolution BankEnergi Competition Winners, Associate Ian Byrne (far left) and Head Project Partner Rajvant Nijjhar (centre left) discuss the project on the roof of the K2 building, South Bank University, London, February 2019

IBECCS’ principal, Ian Byrne, has become an associate of the BankEnergi project, funded through the Government’s Prospering from the Energy Revolution programme. BankEnergi will focus on bringing together organisations across London’s South Bank to plan ways of reducing energy demand through better energy management, identifying cost-effective means of energy storage and renewable energy, and developing a trading platform to allow those in the area to better balance local energy supply and demand and prepare for the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“I am delighted that London South Bank University are partners in BankEnergi”, said Graeme Maidment, Professor of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration at LSBU.  “All too often energy is solely seen in terms of generation and supply, with little attention given to the rising demand for it in heating and cooling.  In higher tech offices, commonly found across the South Bank, energy used in air-conditioning often exceeds that for heating, leading to patterns of use that are quite different from those commonly assumed. BankEnergi will help organisations identify and trade on these to lower their costs and environmental impact.”

In its initial phase, BankEnergi will work with selected bodies across the South Bank to analyse energy use and opportunities for peer to peer trading.  Benefits for the initial participants may include:

  • Better use of existing assets
  • Reduced energy bills and lower carbon emissions
  • Greater resilience against future supply constraints
  • Opportunities for cost-effective investment in renewables and energy storage

More information about the BankEnergi project can be found at https://bankenergi.com/

IBECCS launches

We’re delighted to announce that IBECCS has commenced operations! Our new base is in Exchange House in Central Milton Keynes, but we’re happy to travel anywhere – UK or internationally – to provide you with cost-effective help and advice on saving energy, cutting your carbon footprint and combatting climate change through practical measures.