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Part L – New Building Regulations For Commercial Hot Water

Introducing changes to Part L of the Building Regulations (Conservation of fuel and power) for England represents a commitment to raising the energy performance of buildings to provide a pathway to highly efficient non-domestic buildings which are zero carbon ready, better for the environment and fit for the future. Although due to be formally released in 2025, the first of a number of interim measures come into force this month.

Whilst the new regulations will have a profound impact on new-build projects, refurbishment works are likely to be initially affected by the introduction on June 15th of new restrictions on the specifying of poor-efficiency direct-gas fired water heaters. Under Part L, new regulations for hot water systems essentially end like-for-like replacement for non-condensing water heaters by imposing new minimum efficiencies (91% for natural gas and 92% for LPG).

Each new fixed building service, whether in a new or existing building, must meet the legislated values set out for efficiency. Replacement fixed services must be at least as efficient, either using the same or a different fuel as the service being replaced with matching or preferably better seasonal efficiency.

If moving over to a new fuel system, such as oil or LPG to natural gas, it should not produce more CO₂ emissions nor more primary energy per kWh of heat than the appliance being replaced. If ageing renewables such as wind or solar are being replaced the electrical output must be at least that of the original installation, except where it can be demonstrated that a smaller system would be more appropriate or effective. And if work extends or provides new fixed building services energy meters will need to be installed.

When specifying a DHW system, sizing should be based on the anticipated demand of the building (based on BS EN 12831-3). The regulations demand systems not be “significantly oversized,” but we would argue any oversizing will have a negative impact on the efficiency and operational costs of a DHW system. So accurate sizing is critical in terms of delivering an optimal thermal efficiency assessment. That assessment will include the heat generator and any integral storage vessel, but will exclude all secondary pipework, fans, pumps, diverter valves, solenoids, actuator and supplementary storage vessels from the calculations.

As a guide the minimum thermal efficiencies for natural gas-based DHW systems, based on gross seasonal efficiency of the heat generator are:

91% –                                 Direct fired for new building with >30kW output*

91% –                                 Direct fired for new building with <30kW output*

91% –                                 Boiler efficiency for indirect-fired systems in new & existing buildings

100% assumed                Electrically heated new & existing buildings

* Product standard BS EN 15502-2-1:2012 for gas-fired boilers and appliances of a nominal heat input not exceeding 1000 kW / BS EN 89 gas-fired storage water heaters for the production of DHW

Adveco carries of range of stainless steel direct-fired condensing water heaters, the AD and new ADplus ranges, and MD boiler range, which all leverage advanced burner control to drive efficiency as high as 106%. Plus glass-lined condensing water heaters such as the AO Smith BFC Cyclone (97% efficient) and Innovo (98% efficient) provide a range of choices that already exceed the latest regulations under Part L and provides a safety net should regulations tighten in the future.

As with the broader regulations relating to space heating, controls form a necessary element of the new Part L regulations for combustion heated DHW systems. These all must incorporate a time control (independent of space heating circuits) and an electronic temperature control.

Additionally, regulations call for fully pumped circulation where compatible with the heat generator for primary hot water circuits. Automatic thermostatic control to shut off the burner/primary heat supply when the desired water temperature is reached, and primary flow if the system temperature is too high for all direct-fired circulator systems, direct-fired storage systems and indirect-fired systems. Direct-fired continuous flow systems should include a heat exchanger flow sensor to control outlet temperatures and detect insufficient flow with burner/heat input shut off. A high limit thermostat is also required to shut off the primary flow if the system temperature is too high.

Point-of-use, local and centralised domestic hot water systems should have automatic thermostatic control to interrupt the electrical supply when the setpoint storage temperature is reached or the system temperature gets too high. If there is an over-temperature trip manual reset should be possible.

Local and centralised DHW systems should have both a 7-day time control and the facility to boost the temperature by using an immersion heater in the cylinder.

Instantaneous water heaters should include a flow sensor to control the rate of flow through the heat exchanger. If the sensor detects insufficient flow, it should shut off the electrical input. Plus, a high limit thermostat is required to shut off the primary flow if the system temperature is too high.

Alongside gas, solar thermal is likely to be applied in the notional building unless heat pumps meet 100% of the actual building’s demand. Solar has been used in calculations in the past to overcome the poor fabric performance of a building. But, given the broad majority of heat pumps are currently used for preheat on commercial DHW applications, at most offsetting 70% of the energy demanded, solar thermal has a valid role to play and it’s a proven sustainable technology. Our expectations are for commercial DHW systems to continue in a familiar manner for the near to mid-term, with gas appliances used to provide cost-effective supply, especially during grid peak hours. Heat pumps and/or solar thermal will be deployed to provide preheat to that system.  As efficiencies improve and higher water temperature (more than 60°C) are achieved through heat pumps we see gas appliances slowly being phased out unless they can be replaced with green gas (hydrogen) alternatives. This naturally leads to the provisioning of hybrid systems for the coming decade, optimising a mix of current technologies that address the latest regulations, reduce emissions and crucially deliver value for money with lower operational costs.

These measures are designed to enforce a move away from fossil fuels to low carbon technology for heating and domestic hot water (DHW) and set a more rapid timeline. There is no doubt these new measures will ultimately represent a seismic shift in thinking when it comes to commercial hot water and heating applications, but a cushion has been built in to allow for the development of systems that are necessarily more complex than would be seen in domestic settings. This brings considerable opportunities for developers and specifiers willing to consider both existing and new technologies in order to deliver compliant applications in the next five years.

Whilst a fabric first approach is encouraged, low carbon technologies are being emphasised. This ultimately means heat pumps for the broad majority of DHW applications where there is a low heat demand. For commercial properties where there is typically a high heat demand gas is still allowed while the industry works to develop suitable alternatives.

One final observation on the implication for the specification and installation of commercial DHW relates to completion requirements. Part L tightens the commissioning requirements to reduce the gaps in performance over design and is intended to deliver improved project handover with accurate energy usage predictions. As a result, we can expect to see revisions of commissioning processes across the industry to help streamline delivery and speed up handover, crucial if government roll-out targets for low carbon technologies to achieve Net Zero by 2050 are to be met and superseded by commercial organisations.

 

Regulation changes take effect on 15 June 2022 for use in England. It does not apply to work subject to a building notice, full plans application or initial notice submitted before that date, provided the work for each building is started before 15 June 2023. Regulation changes do not currently apply to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. 

 

 

 

 

A Strategy For Education Estates: Sustainability And Climate Change:

As the government pushes for rapid adoption of net zero, the brunt of early development will inevitably fall to the government-funded public sector, in the latest policy paper, the government has outlined a strategy for education estates to address climate change and sustainability.

The government has set a vision for the United Kingdom to be the world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030. To achieve this will require education to play a positive role in responding to climate change and inspiring action by supporting the delivery of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and Net Zero Strategy.

The strategy applies to the Department for Education (DfE), its agencies and public bodies, as well as early years schools (and independent schools where applicable), further education, higher education and children’s social care. The strategy commits to encouraging children to be close to nature both in and out of school, whilst legislating to meet net zero by 2050 placing a restriction, through legally binding carbon budgets, on the total amount of greenhouse gases the UK can emit over a 5-year period. In the latest, Carbon Budget 6, the UK legislated to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

Strategy For Education Estates: Aims

The government’s vision for the education sector is based on delivering four strategic aims:

  • Excellence in education and skills: through learning and practical experience prepare skill base for delivering a more sustainable future
  • Net zero: by reducing direct and indirect emissions from education buildings and providing opportunities for students to engage practically in the transition to net zero
  • Resilience: adapting education buildings and systems to be resiliently prepared for the effects of climate change
  • A better future environment: enhancing biodiversity, improving air quality and increasing access to nature in and around education settings

Whilst the government has set out a broad holistic approach to addressing sustainability and climate change across the education sector, a considerable portion, through net zero and the need for resilience, directly addresses the buildings within the education estate.

Strategy For Education Estates: Where To Begin?

To reduce energy usage and achieve legal targets for carbon emissions the education sector needs to get a better understanding of the scale of the problem. Schools and universities represent 36% of total UK public sector building emissions with costs being both significant and on the rise. Financial benchmarking shows schools alone were spending around £630m per annum on energy in 2019, with costs rising subsequently.

Adapting existing buildings and designing new ones to respond to climate change and reduce emissions presents a significant challenge. By standardising reporting for decarbonisation and climate resilience the government aims to develop evidence-based actions to support a reduction in energy demand and help adapt buildings to climate risks through innovation in construction that also deliver capital and operational savings. With increased legislation on net zero, consistent reporting will become a necessity. The government’s Net Zero Strategy commits to legislate reporting of emissions if insufficient progress is made voluntarily. It has committed to working with BEIS in the development of guidance on monitoring and reporting for the education sector

This reporting is set to include published risk assessments of overheating of the education estate, to be reviewed on an annual basis from 2023, and on-site emissions from the education estate, baselined by 2024, and progress against national targets published from 2025 onwards. The reports should directly address the requirements of net zero, climate adaptation and decarbonisation activity within education buildings.

This activity is also seen as a way to enhance and contextualise valuable learning opportunities. Through participation, pupils should gain insight into the implementation of climate adaptation measures, learn how buildings can be designed for net zero, and better understand the impacts of energy and water use.

The government’s focus for education estates through until 2025 will involve evidence gathering and reporting on the various new technologies, innovation in sustainable building design, retrofit, and building management to supply further guidance alongside that already to help public sector organisations achieve net zero. Once a best value for money approach is decided upon the process of investment will accelerate.

Strategy For Education Estates: Existing Buildings

The building energy efficiency survey indicates that approximately 60% of energy use in education settings is associated with high carbon intensity fuels such as natural gas, coal and oil. Reducing demand for heating and hot water use, and/or delivering via more sustainable means is a critical need.

For existing buildings, the strategy begins with further trials of smart meters and energy management systems that can help reduce usage and operational costs. Improved collation and use of data on energy usage, water and heat will help to drive individual settings for education buildings. Current delivery of Energy Management Systems in schools which will provide real-time information about energy usage, enabling evidence-based decisions and wider advisory of setting to improve energy efficiency. This is designed to enable Climate Action Plans to be put into place to inform government on the implementation of decarbonisation strategies.

One approach is to address sustainable heating and hot water by providing off-site manufactured, low-carbon, heating systems on the existing school and college estate. These ‘Energy Pods’, similar to Adveco developed packaged plant rooms, are viewed as a potentially strategic approach to safely deliver sustainability for the education estate.

This year the government has also committed to testing the feasibility of replacing school boilers with ground or air source heat pump applications that can be upscaled to accelerate decarbonisation between 2025 and 2035 as part of a wider effort to replace fossil fuel heating systems with low carbon heating.

To support the future retrofit of the education estate and act as catalyst to the construction sector for implementing new technology the government intends to generate building technology pilots. These projects will provide evidence for mitigating the causes of climate change, investigating the resilience of existing buildings and how their environmental conditions can be improved.

Working with BEIS this year, education will be helped with accessing the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, with better-aligned application processes and funding windows. By 2023, all bids for capital funding for further education and higher education will need to consider environmental impact, carbon reduction and adaptation measures, and align with the government’s targets and objectives.

Strategy For Education Estates: New Builds

All new school buildings delivered by DfE which are not already contracted will be net zero in operation.

They will be designed for a 2°C rise in average global temperatures and future-proofed for higher indoor temperatures should there be a 4°C rise. The delivery framework for centrally delivered low-carbon, climate-resilient projects was published late last year and local authorities will need to consider environmental sustainability, carbon reduction and energy efficiency when planning with basic need grant-funding rates in place to deliver these new school capital projects. From now on bids into the Further Education Capital Transformation Programme will also be assessed to determine if the new works will be net zero in operation.

The implementation of ultra-low carbon education buildings will be accelerated. By 2025 at least four schools and one college will have been built via the Gen Zero Platform that was demonstrated at COP26. Over time, all centrally delivered new-build projects are to be built using ultra-low carbon methods.

To help understand how elements of this strategy can be quickly and cost-effectively implemented visit Adveco’s education resources for schools, academies, colleges and universities or contact us to discuss options for a site assessments to give you the accurate data you need to make a more educated decision on evolving hot water systems to be more sustainable.

Rooftop Solar – now is the time to act

Rooftop Solar – now is the time to act

Rooftop solar has hit the headlines with the publishing of the REPowerEU strategy by the European Commission.  Incorporating three main elements – energy savings, diversification of energy supplies and accelerated roll-out of renewable energy, the Commission is proposing an increase in its target for renewables to produce 45% of the EU’s energy by 2030, up from 40%.

As part of the renewable energy roll-out, the strategy has outlined a major initiative for the installation of rooftop solar panels. Initial details suggested the strategy would push countries to use EU funding and launch support programmes for rooftop solar panels and install solar energy in all suitable public buildings by 2025. EU and national governments were also to take action this year to limit permitting times to within three months for a more rapid rollout of rooftop installations.

As in the UK, solar turnaround had yet to be formally addressed by the EU, even though it is a proven technology.

Countries including Spain, Austria and Lithuania had been petitioning Brussels to tackle the issue with legal tools, such as requiring new buildings to have solar rooftops on flat roofs, public buildings and supermarkets across Europe, rather than relying on current voluntary schemes.

With the publication of the proposed strategy, the EU has opted to go much further in its support of solar, requiring all new buildings be fitted with rooftop solar panels. The ‘solar rooftop initiative’ would bring in a legal obligation to install solar panels on public and commercial buildings, as well as residential properties, constructed within European Union territory.

The mandatory solar panel proposal encompasses both solar PV for the production of electricity and solar thermal for water heating as part of the Union’s desire to quickly phase out dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal imports. This process would require doubling the bloc’s capacity for capturing solar power, as well as deploying twice as many heat pumps. Meanwhile, the Commission has suggested upping its energy efficiency target through cutting consumption by 13 per cent by 2030. The process of mandating solar installation will, it is estimated, cost an extra 210 billion euros, with investment to come from a mixture of the public and private sectors.

The EU’s decision to commit its support to solar makes absolute sense, the technology is well understood, is genuinely renewable and has improved considerably in terms of efficiency making it a more compelling investment with a faster return of investment compared to 10-15 years ago. This is especially the case for solar thermal which rather than generating electricity, transfers energy to water heating systems. For commercial projects, especially refurbishment of existing properties that are on gas, it provides a realistic method for upgrading existing systems. Solar thermal alone will not generate the full hot water demand for a building, but combined with gas-fired or electric top-up heat it can help meet 100% demands, whilst reducing the need for gas. Though complex, solar thermal and heat pumps can also be combined in hybrid DHW systems to further efficiencies and reduce or entirely remove dependence on gas, making the technology a key building block for attaining net zero.

The UK government’s focus on heat pumps and district heat networks is laudable, but both require further development, especially to meet the demands of the commercial sector where much of the legacy building stock would be better served by rooftop solar thermal for sustainable water heating. The complete absence of government strategy, or support for solar technologies in the UK is at best baffling. The hope is that the European Commission’s strategy will influence decision makers in this country to reconsider the advantages of investing in solar as part of our drive towards net zero by 2050.

Learn more about the advantages of deploying solar thermal from Adveco for your building’s hot water.

Keeping Hot Water Flowing

Keeping hot water flowing is critical in the commercial sector, where domestic hot water (DHW) appliances will be subjected to extremely hostile conditions, with high temperatures, thermal stress and flue gas condensate on the combustion side and oxygen, minerals and chemical attacks leading to potential corrosion on the waterside. Given this harsh daily treatment, regular servicing and maintenance are key if business-critical service is to be observed. Ensuring consistent operations and prolonging the life of a commercial hot water and heating system should therefore be a key factor when specifying and costing out these business-critical systems.

Once an application is sized correctly and installed, that maintenance process begins with commissioning. This choice falls to the customer, but Adveco advises that it should be engaged to commission its own appliances. This ensures product warranty commences from the date of commissioning, rather than the date of delivery which may be months before a system eventually goes live. If not commissioned by Adveco, it will also fall to the customer to fault find, order the new part and return the faulty part, which can be a painful, time-consuming process for any facility manager who is already time-poor.

Keeping hot water flowing to support consistent operations, we specialise in both commissioning and proactive warranty service to the manufacturer’s recommendations. This is crucial for the consistent and efficient operation of an appliance which can be affected by a range of environmental factors, water condition most notably, but air quality can also harm operation. The UK is broadly split between hard and soft water conditions. In naturally soft water conditions, despite the use of sacrificial anodes, glass-lined vessels can rapidly succumb to critical corrosive damage, making stainless steel the optimal choice, with longevity countering higher purchase costs. Commercial glass-lined steel water heaters and tanks are usually the more cost-attractive proposition in the UK, especially in harder water areas, where, given the right conditions, they are generally resistant to attack from most chemicals and less-corrosive materials. However, the deposition of calcium carbonate, or scale, found in harder water remains a key issue, whether opting for glass-lined or stainless steel vessels.

The latest generation of water heaters may incorporate recirculation pumps to balance the flow of water through the appliance’s heat exchanger. That balance is critical as higher flows can reduce calcification, but it can also lead to corrosion where that flow is interrupted or broken. This is why internal forms should default to curves within the design to provide consistent, unbroken flows.

In typical operation in harder waters, in our experience, it is almost impossible to completely avoid the build-up of scale. Magnets simply do not work properly, so the use of an inhibitor fluid is critical alongside regular annual servicing. This can be of a representative number of appliances on a premise, with conditions that reduce or extend that service period. Low levels of scale may allow for units to be serviced in alternate years for example reducing costs. That annual service must however be thorough.

Too many times an ‘annual service’ will be a quick test with an analyser and issue of a landlord’s certificate. Such activity is relatively low cost, as it avoids the purchase of a service kit, but is ultimately a false economy. It will miss the early onset of calcification and means the water heater or boiler is more likely to suffer early, terminal blockage. For a thorough annual service, we would advocate appliances be fully drained, visually examined and any scale be removed. The process involves disassembly which requires the replacement of rubbers and gaskets, hence the requirement to purchase a service kit. Though more costly, such full services are substantially cheaper than the cost of replacing blocked heat exchangers, burners and even the entire appliance.

If scale build-up is not addressed, then within five years any descaler fluid introduced will simply wash over the surface, which will also easily resist the most concerted of hammer blows. At this stage, the descaler will also not pass through the heat exchanger, requiring its complete replacement. This is seen when servicing or preventative maintenance has been avoided or forgotten, at which point the manufacturer’s warranty will be void.

Annual monitoring of the inhibitor system used for boilers is also key, especially if heating facilities have been refurbished within a building. It is not uncommon to see boilers damaged after radiators are replaced, and new water introduced into the system without replacing lost inhibitor fluid. Monitoring and replacement as part of the annual service activity will again protect the heat exchangers.

The other key failure point is the burner in gas-fired appliances. Condensing boilers and water heaters will draw air from the plant room and if that is dusty, it will be sucked in, reducing the efficiency. If not cleaned regularly, the burner will soot up and eventually become blocked often requiring full replacement at some cost. Even if located in an open space, or exterior to the building the burner should be thoroughly inspected. Nearby building works can cause high levels of dust, and in dense urban areas, pollutants from vehicles can also be drawn into the appliance causing build-up of dirt on the burner.

Serviced thoroughly and regularly, commercial water heaters and boilers should have an efficient operational lifespan of at least ten years (depending on location), and we do see appliances still operating for twice that length of time. The caveat in these cases though is that the overall efficiency of legacy units operating for more than 10 years will be far lower than current generations of appliances and will almost certainly fail to meet current ERP regulations on emissions introduced in 2018 for new water heaters and boilers. So continued maintenance of such units would not only be a false economy in terms of running costs but will certainly not be contributing to any efforts to introduce better sustainability in a building.

In short, failure to descale, flush sediment, clean burners, check anodes or test for corrosion will reduce the operational longevity of any appliance, but also severely impact the efficient operation. That has negative implications on operational costs and unwarranted capital implications if there is a catastrophic failure. Under such conditions, this will almost certainly invalidate any manufacturer warranty that exists. Reactive service providers will only check gas pressures and overall condition, they will then wait for breakdowns and call outs.  Only by keeping hot water flowing through proactive servicing can you ensure any costly downtime of business-critical hot water is absolutely minimised.

Keeping hot water flowing. Visit our warranty service page or contact us to arrange for your service.

Unlocking The Potential of Hydrogen

For many, unlocking the potential of hydrogen represents a familiar, easier and more cost-effective way to transition to more sustainable heating practices in buildings. It is also increasingly seen as a core shift in the energy trade and critically, in the wake of demands to reduce dependency on Russian oil and gas, the future for regionalisation of energy supply.

In the recent report, Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation, from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), hydrogen it is estimated will cover up to 12% of global energy use by 2050, with at least two-thirds of total production being green hydrogen (produced with renewable electricity) with the remainder blue hydrogen (derived from natural gas).

Here in the UK, the status of hydrogen remains to be confirmed as part of the government’s push towards attaining net zero by 2050. The Heating and Buildings Strategy published in late 2021 does however begin to give an indication of the growing support for the technologies currently being tested.

The government’s commitment so far extends to the testing and evaluation of the potential of hydrogen as an option for heating workplaces. In partnership with industry, the intent is to “clearly define the evidence needed to make a policy decision about the role hydrogen for heating can play in our future energy system.”

To this end, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), supported by Innovate UK and Innovate UK KTN, have launched the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund (NZHF) which was most recently cited in this month’s Energy Security Strategy to focus on unlocking the potential of hydrogen. A funding sum of up to £240m has been made available to explore the development and deployment of low carbon hydrogen production. The funding is intended to de-risk investment and reduce lifetime costs of multiple hydrogen production projects this decade to help ensure a diverse and secure decarbonised energy system that meets the UK government’s stated ambition of 10GW low carbon hydrogen production by 2030, and commitment to reach net zero by 2050.

This investment comes in advance of a declared strategic decision by 2026 on the role of hydrogen in heating buildings. This decision will consider the success of development projects that focus on appliances, such as new gas boilers that can be readily converted to hydrogen (‘hydrogen-ready’) and the testing of conversion of the gas grid. The latter in particular is critical in terms of evaluating the technical and practical feasibility of using hydrogen instead of natural gas for heating. This assessment process is also expected to consider the expected costs, benefits, impacts, and practical delivery implications.

This consultation process will also be a factor in decisions in relation to the future of broader boiler and heating system efficiency and explore the best ways to reduce carbon emissions from our heating systems

According to IRENA, the rise of hydrogen’s potential is linked to the plummeting costs of renewables and electrolysers. This greatly improves the economic attractiveness of ‘green’ hydrogen which also can help deliver on the demands for storage that comes hand-in-hand with greater dependence on wind and photovoltaic (PV) power generation. From this perspective, ‘green’ hydrogen becomes an important technology in the extension of renewable electricity developments.

Although ‘Grey’ hydrogen production, which is solely based on fossil fuels, is expected to be rapidly phased out in the coming decades, ‘Blue’ hydrogen, although also based on fossil fuels, is expected to play a complementary role to ‘Green’ hydrogen, so long as the carbon capture and storage (CCS) is proved viable. As a result, hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels are now projected to meet a sizeable share of final energy demand in 2050, up from virtually nothing today. To achieve this in the UK, the Heating & Building Strategy report outlines the key processes of consultation required for unlocking the potential of hydrogen beyond 2026.

  • large-scale hydrogen trials: BEIS and Ofgem have liaised with the gas distribution network operators on the conducting of a ‘village’ scale deployment trial by 2025, and a possible town scale conversion project before the end of the decade.
  • Hydrogen blending in the gas grid: to develop the safety case, technical and cost-effectiveness assessments of blending up to 20% hydrogen (by volume) into the existing gas network. This has the potential to deliver up to 7% emissions reductions from the grid. The assessment of indicative cost and value of blending hydrogen is intended to be delivered this Autumn, with the possibility of a policy decision in 2023. This in particular would represent a major first step towards integrating hydrogen in the grid at a potentially national level, but would not require building projects to replace existing natural gas boilers/water heaters.
  • Hydrogen-ready boilers: Consideration will be given to the case for enabling, or requiring, new natural gas boilers to be easily convertible to use hydrogen (‘hydrogen-ready’) by 2026 (in domestic projects). This consultation would also test proposals on the future of broader boiler and heating system efficiency and explore the best ways to reduce carbon emissions from gas heating systems over the next decade. The Heating & Buildings strategy makes clearer the commercial implications where, for the moment, if your business uses gas, then you can upgrade to new gas appliances up until 2035, with hydrogen-ready options extending that window well into the 2040s based on current appliance lifespan.

The local trials and planning, research and development and testing outlined will help develop necessary evidence on the role hydrogen can play in the heating of buildings, enabling strategic decisions to be taken on the role of hydrogen in heating buildings in 2026. This timeframe, and the necessity of its elements, are very important to remember when the media is constantly calling for a decision to be made more rapidly. The implications of a transition to a hydrogen grid are immense, but so are the challenges. It cannot be rushed and it cannot fail if net zero is to be realistically attained, especially across the commercial & public sector built environment.

On the global stage, green hydrogen may strengthen energy independence, security, and resilience by cutting import dependency and price volatility.  However, the raw materials needed for hydrogen remain exposed to shortages and price fluctuations that could negatively affect hydrogen supply chains, cost and revenues. For this reason, hydrogen, if it is green-lit as a core contributor to the UK’s net zero delivery will not do so in isolation. Just as most buildings will currently rely on both gas and electricity, net zero ‘ready’ organisations will most likely have embraced a mixed approach. This will leverage the advantages of air source heat pumps (ASHP), proven solar thermal and natural gas with a hydrogen blend as a redundancy/peak demand back-up through the 2030s and early 40s. Hydrogen ready’’ adoption should be a necessity by the early to mid-2030’s. Then the UK could look forward to full transition to ‘Blue’ then ‘Green’ hydrogen from the late 2030s and throughout the 2040s at a national scale. Regional rollouts will of course redefine these timelines, but, if the policy supports the adoption of hydrogen from 2026, the technology usage path should remain fairly clear for commercial projects looking at unlocking the potential of hydrogen as a part of their corporate drive toward net zero sustainability by 2050.

Prefabricated Hot Water Systems For Schools

Prefabricated Hot Water Systems For Schools Prefabricated hot water systems for schools can drive real value from previously underutilised space as well as address the need to introduce new, more sustainable practices…

With larger class sizes demanding more extensive facilities, the most valuable assets any school can have are its internal spaces to grow, develop and drive advantage. Within the school building, this leads to a balancing act between granting usable, comfortable space for staff and pupils while meeting the demands of a building’s critical operating systems that include hot water and heating.

School plant rooms will vary from purpose-built to jury-rigged spaces used to accommodate heating and hot water systems. Basements are typically repurposed in older buildings, whilst it is not unusual to find them tucked in amongst other rooms creating a mixed-use setting. Education estates need to understand how advantageous it can be to separate such building services and relocate them away from those using the building whilst improving the efficiency of the system for a host of benefits including lower operational costs and reduced emissions.

Simply upgrading to a new boiler or electric water heater can deliver notable efficiency improvements over models from just 10 years ago, and today’s modern appliances pack that into much more compact, space-saving formats. So, you can gain greater capability from a smaller footprint in the plant room, and potentially reclaim a few square meters. But what if you could reclaim the entire plant room?

Refurbishing plant to a new location may sound drastic, but that need not be the case if we apply offsite construction. This enables the creation of modular units or systems that are sized and pre-installed and ready for relatively quick and simple connection once delivered to a site. Depending on the chosen location, such prefabricated plant rooms can be of considerable size and complexity.

Prefabricated Hot Water Systems For Schools

With production work located offsite in a controlled, purpose-made factory environment, the system build gains enhanced quality control with manufacturer assured standards. Importantly for education projects where works windows can be extremely limiting the plant room element of a project can progress at the same time as other groundworks or site installations. This work will also not be affected by any forced downtime on-site, such as from Covid outbreaks, which can quickly become a major issue for a time-sensitive school building project. Without distractions from other typical construction site activities, the plant room work can be rapidly progressed ready for delivery and final fit. Faced with narrow construction windows allowed within the school holidays, a completely new plant room can be craned into position on day of delivery. Without the need for extended plumbing and electrical installation, final connections are simplified and can be completed in a matter of days. This is not only more cost-effective, but it also helps simplify and accelerate final system commissioning.

As well as extending options for refurbishment, this approach also provides greater flexibility when designing new builds. Adveco recently designed and built a complete, prefabricated plant room for a Berkshire school. In this case, hot water and heating demands had increased due to a growing number of pupils, which in turn was limiting the incorporation of large scale plant room space within a new building. The GRP enclosure, which was sited on the new building’s flat roof, incorporated a complete integrated system built around a cascade of condensing boilers with an intelligent control system for optimised performance and continuity of service.

Flat rooftops, commonly used in school building design, are truly ‘dead space’ for most buildings, but they provide a broad opportunity to relocate heating and hot water plant safely and more securely. They are also excellent for positioning hybrid systems that integrate renewable and sustainable technologies.  By locating a packaged air source heat pump (ASHP) based system onto a rooftop, the application gains unimpeded airflow while operating noise becomes almost unnoticeable, preventing any distraction in the classroom.

Flat roofs are also perfect for the installation of solar thermal systems, where a frame is constructed to align the collectors for optimal heat collection and transference to the building’s water system. Location at height is recommended from a system security perspective because vandalism, usually because of hurled missiles, can prove highly expensive to resolve. But perhaps one of the biggest operational threats is to the efficiency of a solar thermal system, which comes in the form of heat loss from long pipe runs between collector and hot water storage. By locating the plant room on the roof, long pipe runs and resultant thermal losses are minimised helping to protect the investment.

With the proliferation of car ownership, it might at first seem unlikely that the staff car park is being underused. But the drive to encourage walking, cycling and car-sharing has had an impact, and developers who have previously pushed for more open parking space are now being challenged to repurpose some of that space. In terms of identifying functional opportunities to better leverage this space, the siting of plant fits the bill. Turing over just one or two car spaces can have a dramatic impact on the capability of heating or hot water system, providing enough square meterage to easily accommodate a mid-sized packaged plant room offering, or the space could be used to locate air source heat pumps (ASHP) that drive system sustainability whilst lowering CO₂ emissions.

Offsite construction is the perfect example of where application design, system prefabrication and expertise in hybrid and renewable technology can help maximise underutilised space on an education project. Prefabricated hot water systems for schools are one of the easiest ways to combine the latest in commercial ASHP technology with high-efficiency direct electric water heaters, or solar thermal with gas-fired appliances to provide reliable high-temperature water in a convenient, packaged system that delivers truly sustainable applications that demand less fuel, reducing emissions and lowering ongoing operational costs. That is a core demand for any education estate manager faced with driving sustainability in buildings within the limits of often tight budgets.

Discover more about packaged plant rooms and sustainable systems for education buildings from Adveco.

Scenarios For Greener Buildings in the UK

Building Back Greener is the government’s campaign to improve the energy performance of buildings, reduce costs, minimise the impacts of transition on the energy system, and make switching to low carbon systems easier in order to reduce emissions and achieve net zero by 2050. Underpinning this process are three illustrative scenarios for greener buildings that reflect different technology mixes that would allow the decarbonisation of heating in buildings. The three scenarios are high hydrogen, high electrification and a dual-energy system scenario.

Today, the importance of driving these scenarios forward has been given greater urgency by the long-awaited report  from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). To stay under the critical 1.5C threshold, according to the IPCC, means that carbon emissions from everything that we do, buy, use or eat must peak by 2025, and tumble rapidly after that, reaching net-zero by the middle of this century.

To put it in context, the amount of CO2 that the world has emitted in the last decade is the same amount that’s left to us to stay under this key temperature threshold. “I think the report tells us that we’ve reached the now-or-never point of limiting warming to 1.5C,” said IPCC lead author Heleen De Coninck. This is why quickly achieving goals towards net zero by 2050 is so important if we are to curb the worst implications of global warming – heat waves, drought & flooding.

The immediate focus from the government is to achieve Carbon Budget 6 targets, to ensure the UK is on target to achieve net zero, although many already doubt these budgets will be met as simple measures such as closing down coal-fired power stations are replaced by a far more complex mix of options that deliver more incremental steps to reducing carbon emissions. To achieve the level of emissions reductions across the built environment in line with the government’s delivery pathway to 2037, will take an estimated additional public and private investment of approximately £200 billion which will need to be focused upon one or more of the outlined scenarios.

Three Scenarios for Greener Buildings

The high electrification scenario assumes that there is no significant use of hydrogen for heating in buildings. This may be because hydrogen is not proven to be feasible, cost-effective, or preferable as a solution for low carbon heating, or because its deployment has been significantly delayed.

Under such conditions, the choice would be to continue the rapid growth of the heat pump market which the government has already seen as the best low carbon heating option for new buildings or those off the gas grid.  This would mean increasing new installations (domestic and commercial) beyond the currently envisaged minimum of 600,000 per year in 2028 to up to 1.9 million per year from 2035. Currently, the UK sees approximately 35,000 heat pump installations per year, and commercial demands are already outstripping available stocks in the market as a result of raw material and component shortages caused by Covid.

To ensure the extended level of heat pump deployment, further policy would be required to phase out installation of new fossil fuel heating faster while continuing to follow natural replacement cycles. The proposed increased deployment of heat pumps will need to be accompanied by investment in the infrastructure needed to meet increased electricity demand, including the generation of low carbon electricity and additional grid capacity.

If hydrogen proves both feasible and preferable as a method for heating most UK buildings, and decisions taken in 2026 support a path to converting most of the national gas grid to hydrogen then the high hydrogen scenario would take effect. Pilot projects to provide heating for an entire town by the end of the decade would, once successfully implemented, see an accelerated rollout on a national scale. The conversion would likely start by building out from existing hydrogen production and use in industrial clusters, and roll-out would involve switchover on an area-by-area basis in different locations.

Due to the infrastructure and supply chain requirements of a hydrogen conversion the government estimates new heating system installations should be low carbon or hydrogen-ready, meaning ready for a planned future conversion, from 2035, with approximately 30% of existing low carbon buildings to be supplied by hydrogen at that time.

This does mean approximately 53% of buildings with low carbon systems would be reliant on heat pumps and 15% heat networks. This is why the third, and most realistic of the scenarios for greener buildings is one based around a dual-energy system, where both hydrogen and electrification prove feasible and preferable for heating buildings with a widespread demand for hybrid systems that utilise a mix of energy sources.

For example, if all, or most of, the gas grid is converted to low carbon hydrogen, but the costs and benefits of switching to hydrogen versus installing a heat pump are viewed differently by organisations we might see a high switchover to both hydrogen and heat pumps on the gas grid. Based on differing geographical or built environment factors, there may be a partial, but still extensive, conversion of the gas grid to hydrogen. Under this latter scenario, more careful consideration would be required of which parts of the grid would be converted and where responsibility for decisions about the costs and benefits of converting different areas should lie.

While the government claims it remains early days in terms of determining the policy framework that might support this mixed transition, global conditions, both political and environmental, are driving fresh demands on the government to accelerate commitments.  Any scenario in which hydrogen is an available option from the grid will require public policy decisions to enable cost-effective and coordinated investment in infrastructure and supply chains. If the case for converting the network to hydrogen differs strongly from area to area, more preparation may need to take place at a regional or local level.

What does this mean for the commercial sector?

Whichever scenario becomes the one of choice, you can expect greater consultation over new regulatory powers that can be brought to bear on the commercial sector to bring it into alignment with the government’s goals for delivering these scenarios for greener buildings.

Initially expect to see the phasing out of heating appliances that are only capable of burning fossil fuels. This would be consistent with the ambition to phase out the installation of new and replacement natural gas boilers by 2035, and the phasing out of the installation of high-carbon fossil fuel boilers in commercial properties not connected to the gas grid by 2024.

The government’s Energy White Paper has already set a minimum energy efficiency standard of EPC Band B by 2030 for privately rented commercial buildings in England and Wales. And you can expect further consultation on regulating the non-domestic owner-occupied building stock and consideration on whether this should align with the private rented sector minimum energy efficiency standards. There is also an expectation for a response to the 2021 consultation on introducing a performance-based policy framework in large commercial and industrial buildings, with the aim to introduce a pilot scheme sometime in 2022.

Further consultation is expected on the Small Business Energy Efficiency Scheme (SBEES). This scheme aims to remove barriers for SMEs in accessing energy efficiency measures, drive forward better buildings performance and aid SMEs in meeting regulatory standards.

Finally, you can also expect to see a strengthening of the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), which is a mandatory energy assessment scheme for large businesses’ energy use and opportunities to improve energy efficiency.

What is very clear at this stage is that commercial organisations face a complex technical and regulatory challenge in the coming decades if they are to successfully navigate to a future with decarbonised buildings across their estates.   Consulting with expert providers at the earliest planning stages can pay dividends in the longer term, balancing the use of cost-effective and familiar technology now with new developments in the mid-to-long term. From a business perspective, the advantages of decarbonisation can be valuable in terms of operational savings and corporate social responsibility gains, but higher capital and operational expenditure also need to be considered if realistic steps are to be made. With more than 50 years of experience delivering bespoke commercial hot water and heating applications and deep knowledge of renewable systems,  including both heat pumps and solar thermal, Adveco is perfectly positioned to advise and assist organisations seeking to begin the decarbonisation process now.

MD wall hung boiler & ATSH indirect water heater

DHW For Smaller Businesses

Refurbishing and modernising heating and domestic hot water DHW for smaller businesses should not be a chore, but commercial boilers can be large and complex to install, especially if available space is limited for new plant. Adveco has responded to this, extending its award-winning MD boiler range with a series of highly compact wall hung variants designed with the smaller plant room in mind.

Smaller business types, from office buildings to light commercial industry, retail and cafés will typically exhibit defined periods of continuous heating and hot water demand across the working day, often encompassing peak periods of demand when energy costs can also be higher. For this reason, to ensure demand is met and energy costs offset, commercial applications will typically look to incorporate thermal storage through indirect heating, using the boiler as the primary energy supply. This is advantageous in terms of maintaining consistent levels of heating or hot water throughout the day, as well as being able to rapidly respond to fresh demands for extra heating. The size of such a system can however prove prohibitive for smaller businesses. While the MD range offers a variety of models to address central heating needs,  Adveco’s MD 15B, 24B and 34B feature connections specified for use with an indirect water heater that can also be used to provide DHW for smaller businesses.

The MD boiler’s single, high-quality patented titanium-stabilised stainless steel heat exchanger, provides exceptional construction strength and corrosion resistance. The brand-exclusive three-pass design features large bore, circular tube cross-sections that reduce the collection of debris for improved operational efficiency and extended operational life. This is further improved by separating the water flowing through the boiler from the business’ DHW supply which is achieved by pairing with an indirect hot water calorifier, such as the extremely compact 160 and 200 litre ATSH Stainless Steel High-Capacity Cylinders. The calorifier vessel includes a single internal high-capacity fixed heating coil at low-level for use with the high-powered MD heat source and adds the option of a secondary electric immersion for built-in system redundancy.

One of the greatest advantages of using this type of indirect tank with an MD Wall Hung Boiler is the consistency of DHW for smaller businesses without requiring the boiler to be in constant use. You, therefore, save on energy, further reducing emissions and are better able to control operational costs. The boiler efficiently heats the water in the tank, which is kept at a consistent temperature for a near-instantaneous supply of hot water as and when needed, steadily distributed throughout the day. Rapid thermal recovery means the system is able to support even the most demanding peak periods which are easily addressed by the built-in controls accessed from the MD’s LCD control screen.

Should business demands increase consistently, the MD is designed with cascade control to enable up to eight units to work together seamlessly, and the ATSH range of calorifiers offers larger vessel sizes for extra DHW load.

Whether providing space heating or DHW for smaller businesses seeking an efficient, cost-effective replacement for ageing gas-fired boilers to support your application, the Adveco range of MD wall hung boilers offer a wide choice of appliances to meet your particular business needs without the need to oversize a system which will be more costly to both install and operate over its lifetime.

Public Sector Decarbonisation Of Hot Water & Heating

Public sector decarbonisation is a core facet of the government’s Heat & Building Strategy, which has been published to outline how the UK can achieve net zero by 2050. By decarbonising public sector buildings, the government aims to demonstrate leadership and to encourage action in other sectors to make a direct contribution to net zero.

With around 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions being accounted for by heating, cooling, and lighting the built environment, the government has said it is ‘essential that the public sector demonstrate leadership and drive down emissions by using credible and consistent approaches to decarbonise the public sector estate.’ The aim is to reduce direct emissions from public sector buildings by 75% against a 2017 baseline by the end of carbon budget 6.

Addressing decarbonisation within both new construction or refurbishment of existing properties has now become a key deliverable throughout the public sector which will need to be shown to be leading the way in decarbonising UK buildings in the 2020s.

What is the government doing to support the public sector?  

The government’s £1 billion Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme was initially announced in 2020 to provide funding until this year. Conceived to support the public sector in finding answers to heat decarbonisation additional funding was allocated to make public buildings greener and the second phase of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme was launched last April with an additional £75 million of funding into this year. The government has subsequently committed to investing a further £1425 million for the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme between now and 2025. This funding is intended to provide public sector organisations with grants to fund energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation measures and supports the decarbonisation of the public sector in line with the government set net zero targets.

The funding will aim to deliver energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation improvements to organisations such as schools, hospitals and public sector offices, and present an opportunity to build wider support and acceptance for transformation of how the UK heats buildings. The government has stated it is committed to the continuation and extension of the scheme to “ensure that public sector bodies have access to finance to continue decarbonising their estates.”

What does the government expect of the public sector?

The government’s aim is to introduce greater transparency into how the public sector is making practical changes to achieve decarbonisation. At a basic level, the expectation is for “all public sector organisations to be thinking about how they will achieve Net Zero and should be taking steps to start this process now.” As publicly-funded organisations, they should expect to be held accountable to the public by reporting their progress. Through the Greening Government Commitments (GGCs) a framework for reporting against targets to reduce public sector greenhouse gas emissions has already been set in place, and now all public sector organisations will be expected to show leadership by taking steps to reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions. This should include monitoring their energy use and setting targets and plans to reduce emissions over the next five years. Different targets will be appropriate for different organisations, but all public sector organisations are expected to publicly report progress against their plans and targets.

The Heat & Building Strategy specifically calls on public sector organisations to plan to reduce direct emissions from their heating systems by making buildings more efficient. This should be achieved through:

  • improving building insulation
  • switching to low-carbon heating sources when it is time for heating systems to be replaced
  • implementing smart technology
  • installing low-carbon heating in new buildings, which means retrofitting will not be needed

If reporting of public sector emissions on a consistent and coherent basis is not done on a voluntary basis, and, if insufficient progress is made on reducing emissions in the public sector, the government will consider legislation requiring all public sector organisations work toward and report against a legally binding target to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

How can Adveco help?

The Heat & Building Strategy accepts that public sector organisations will require new specialist skills and expertise to decarbonise, both through making infrastructure improvements and by better managing operational energy use. As the public sector provides all public services, including education, healthcare, emergency services and social care to name a few, these organisations encompass a large and varied requirement for hot water and heating.

Including everything from showers, washbasins and kitchens, to varied space heating demands,   applications will vary dramatically across each bespoke case, making decisions on decarbonisation all the more complex and difficult without specialist support.

Currently, the government favours air source heat pump (ASHP) based applications for the public sector as the simplest and most cost-effective answer to being greener. But many have queried the expense and relevancy of the technology outside of new build properties. The Government has said it will work with the industry to help meet the goal of reducing ASHP cost, bringing them in line with current fossil fuel options by 2030, ‘with big cost reductions of between a quarter and a half by 2025 expected as the market expands, and technology develops.’

This and the practical benefits of switching to high-efficiency heat pumps to reduce energy consumption, which includes less CO₂ production and lower long-term operational costs, make the technology an important part of the process for achieving carbon-neutral goals on schedule. The high-temperature demands of commercial hot water systems do however curtail the current generation of heat pumps as a singular response, with existing, poorly insulated buildings further reducing efficiencies. For this reason, public sector organisations faced with delivering decarbonisation goals within the proposed next five year period will need to consider more complex hybrid systems, or if on gas, look to solar thermalas a practical way to reduce energy use and decarbonise their buildings.

There are a number of available responses and new lower-carbon technologies are under consideration by the government for further support but knowing what is best for your organisation is not always straightforward. Faced with varied building stock, technology options and fluctuating user demands for hot water and heating consulting with Adveco’s expert sales and engineering staff can help you truly understand those needs and the options best suited to your bespoke situation.

Discover more about Adveco’s renewable systems for decarbonising your building hot water and heating.

Installing commercial heat pumps – what to look for

Adveco’s FPi32 commercial heat pumps range are not only a renewable source of hot water with low running costs but are one of the easiest to fit when it comes to installing commercial heat pumps.

With the government-led push to replace ageing commercial hot water systems with new, more environmentally friendlier technologies, the demands for heat pump based applications is expected to soar in the coming decade. One of the key concerns raised by the HVAC industry is the availability of trained installers capable of working with heat pumps. While the number of commercial installations may be superseded by domestic sites, their complexity means installers will increasingly be in demand. To prevent costly hold-ups, projects incorporating ASHPs should take into account how difficult or easy installation of commercial heat pumps might be.

The FPi32’s compact monobloc design, with a built-in circulation pump and plate heat exchanger, allows for an easy installation for a multitude of work areas. This includes both indoors and outdoors. They can be installed in small unused spaces, mounted on exterior walls or flat roofs of the site. Installed on flat roofs or mounted onto GRP plant rooms.

An FPi32 installation also requires few ancillaries (strainer, expansion vessel and pressure relief valve) to enable its operation as part of a hot water system. This also helps to keep system purchase costs lower as well.

Another advantage of installing commercial heat pumps, such as these compact FPi32 units, is that less construction work and time is needed to fit them. They can be up and running quicker, providing working flows of hot water sooner than other units currently in the commercial market. They can then efficiently and effectively sustain the necessary working temperature of 50°C required to provide preheat as part of a hybrid all-electric system in new build projects.

Ease of installation goes hand in hand with significantly reduced maintenance costs.

The design of these FPi32 units incorporates effective frost protection, enhancing the option to install outdoors. The FPi32 range is equipped with a 1.5-metre ‘trace heating cable’ as standard, which is there to protect the pipework between the heat pump and the building from frost conditions. This ‘trace heating’ via the mechanical thermostat is always available when the heat pump has power. This guarantees protection against frosty conditions when needed, regardless of whether the heat pump is operating.

This monobloc design simply requires regular cleaning of the coil and water filter in terms of regular maintenance. The internal parts are easily accessible for all maintenance needs. A refrigerant circuit high-pressure gauge is cleverly positioned so that this can be read clearly and easily through the external cover to monitor the pressure and indicate whether a leak may or may not have occurred. Access to the internal parts, in the need of any replacements, can be achieved without long evaluation wait times. For example, if the replacement of non-return valves on sensors and switches is required then the quick replacement time is advantageous, reducing the amount of “down time” on the unit. All of which equates to an extremely work effective and reliable unit for your commercial needs. This demonstrates that, once supplied by Adveco, installing commercial heat pumps is easy and is also a more forward-thinking way for a greener environmental contribution. Reliability and efficiency equal greater sustainability, as well as keeping those costs lower all round.

We would argue that under the right circumstances, installing commercial heat pumps can be a relatively straightforward and successful way to introduce greater sustainability into the hot water system for new build projects. The FPi32 heat pump range represents a win-win, ticking all the boxes for a sensible purchase, offering a simpler, more efficient option for installing commercial heat pumps in a variety of ways. Once fitted, required maintenance is quick and easy, all whilst helping contribute to a project’s green credentials.

Learn more about renewables.