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    We are devloping a new eco site in cambridgeshire, and I'd like this thread to be something of a mixing pot of ideas.

    My company is looking into the design and implementation of a small commercial development in cambridgeshire. An office centre of 8 to 12 units that works to support the local area in both design (being consistent with the surrounding area) yet innovative enought to stand out.

    Being in cambridgeshire biomass is plentiful, so we'd like to run with that, but we're not adverse to other ideas. We're very much with the BMW school of thought of efficient dynamics, in that we'd rather have simple clever solutions than technological showpieces. So in essence, clever design is in, techy stuff out as it were.

    We've got some backing off local government and we're looking to have everything in place by september, since this is when grants from the local council are decided and paid out. We are sure that th massive marketing appeal will, at the very least, heighten the profile of said cambridgeshire town.

    So really, what I'm asking for, is for you guys to throw in your ideas, regardless of what they are, so we get some fresh perspective on things rather than have our team perhaps get a little too blinkered in it's workings.

    Look forward to hearing your ideas! please feel free to ask questions as we'd love input from all and sundry!


    Steve Norfield
    Selling Solutions Cambridge
    • CommentAuthorsimeon
    • CommentTimeNov 23rd 2008
    If you are looking for marketing appeal, then why not go for total on site micro generation of energy. If these are office units, then energy requirements should be modest. You should be able to achieve this with passiv haus standard insulation, solar PV, solar thermal perhaps, even a small wind turbine or two. Also design the site with passive heating in mind. Couple these ideas with heat pumps and with a means of inter seasonal energy storage (batteries) and you could be looking at zero energy bills. That is a good selling point to potential customers. You will be able to say to your clients that their rates will be such-and-such, their rent will be such-and-such but your electricity bill will be zero!

    If you can think of any means of exporting any spare energy, then that would be even better.
    I used to work for Aircogen CHP in Peterborough (Part of Peter Brotherhood Power Generation) so I'm half sold on the CHP systems, especially with such plentiful amounts of biomass available. We'd love to look at a hopper fed biomass system thats fed from local farms.

    We were going to steer away for PV panels as the payback on them is, in my experience, pretty horrific. Much more a fan of the thermal tubes to reduce requiremet on the primary system.

    Rain water harvesting is a cert for toilet flushing etc, as is large areas of pilkington Energicare glazing to get some benefit from solar gain.

    We've thought about wind turbines, but at £30k installed fo 12kW units they're not exactly cost effective, and at 100k for the 75kW units it's out of the question, especially as a 23m tower would be vetoed pretty much instantly.

    We like the passiv haus concepts, anyone got any links to where they've been succesfully used for commercial developments?
    • CommentAuthorTuna
    • CommentTimeNov 24th 2008
    Have you considered an earth sheltered building approach? Cambridgeshire could do with some more hills...
    • CommentAuthorBrianR
    • CommentTimeNov 24th 2008
    How about:

    * Burning animal and straw waste.
    * External insulation comparative trials (aerogel / multifoils / straw bale etc)
    * Fuel from animal waste (Methane etc)
    * Seasonal heat storage
    * Best practice energy reduction for visitors to see at weekends

    Have a look at Wysing Arts Centre near Toft they have a straw bale house.
    Hi Brian,

    we are steering away from animal waste because of the environmental (read smell) issues that surround it, we had terrible trouble with a biomass plant in the USA that rendered any saving null and void by the ohhirifc cost of odour control.

    Straw waste & biomass etc is something we like, with so many local farmers a supply of fuel would be reasonably attainable, especially as the site is sat next to farmland. The cost of installing these systems is being weighted up against the alternatives, but a hopper fed biomass system is favourable, particularly in a CHP application.

    Thanks for your input, please keep it coming
    • CommentAuthorHarrison
    • CommentTimeFeb 10th 2009
    What a great opportunity! Firstly work on using the least amount of energy to fulfill the tasks of the site, it appears that no light or heavy engineering is involved with the offices, so start by using super insulation to reduce your heating and cooling costs as well as giving you superior acoustical insulation along the lines of a passive design. Utilise external landscaping to provide wind and weather protection all through the year to allow you to have a great environment to work in, plant for more than one purpose though, see plants, bushes and trees as possible food and fuel resources for you as well as a great habitat for your wild neighbours. If this is a blank site with no mains utility connections, keep it that way and reduce your utility bills! Instead, harvest and process all your waste on site with the smallest amount possible going elsewhere. Don't forget the ground heat resources under your offices and cars as well as the grey water (keep it out of the sewers) from your non-sewage fluid streams, use it as a source of energy, irrigation and cooling water and just possibly with a cute energy management system you will need very little investment in additional renewable power generation to back this up.
    As a final, think about the use of the site outside of office hours, is this a possible training, demonstration site on the weekends, think about its overall sustainability and its total cost over the whole of its life including the cost of changing or converting the site to something else in the future.
    • CommentAuthorunguided1
    • CommentTimeFeb 24th 2009
    Hi stevennorfield
    I have recently been installing air source unvented hot water cylinders.
    They are a single unit comprising of a 250L stainless steel hot water cylinder with an 810wtt air source heat pump on top.
    We have been ducting waste heat out of loft spaces to heat the water, the manufacturers claim that they can reduce your bills for heating ot water by 70 percent.
    They can also be used in conjuction with solar panels.Regards
    • CommentAuthorTimber
    • CommentTimeFeb 24th 2009
    If you super insulate, then the winter heat loads should be minimal. Computers and people should almost be enough!

    Passive solar design would be good, but be ware of glare on computer monitors and things.

    If you have a server room, use that waste heat to add exta heating to the units in the winter.

    I would consider solid masonary walls with lots and lots of external insulation. Then use a big roof overhang to protect from weather and excess sun the summer (providing the orientation of the building permits). Summer cooling may be as much or more of an issue than winter heating, so look for some passive cooling system that cools the thermal mass overnight. Automatic night time venting could work well for this, then use MVHR all year round to make the most of the heat/cold.

    CHP might work, but I would be worried about excess thermal in the summer for a given electrical demand. That could be used for interseasonal storage however, but might be an innefficient use for that heat. not sure really.


    We have a similar project in Lancashire with a Former Textile mill Northern Light factory which will be split into multiple units for independent green businesses probably going for the same ERDF grant you are talking about. Our plan is to install a woodchip fired CHP plant on site using thermal oil as the transfer media and conventional steam power technology.It will be co fired using thermal solar tubes on the northern light roof heating thermal oil instead of water.
    I hope I am not going to be shouted down, but my company manufactures environmentally friendly magnesium oxide boards with phase change material. Please contact me via our website mgoltd.com
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