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What’s turning the wheel of decarbonisation in the public sector?

By Chris Caton, Product Director – Commercial, at Ideal Heating

If the UK is to meet its net-zero ambitions, it’s imperative that the public sector embrace decarbonisation.  But the retrofit and rebuild of tens of thousands of public sector buildings will take time and money. 

Revised regulations have set the pace of change for public sector bodies to follow, while funds have come online to support their investments in low and zero carbon initiatives. So, what does the public sector need to know about the journey towards decarbonisation?

Changing the “L” in Legislation 

As a first step in this long transition, changes to UK Building Regulation Part L – the conservation of fuel and power – came into effect. These introduced greater targets than ever before to curb fuel usage and improve heating efficiency. Its focus is to reduce CO2 emissions by 31% for dwellings and 27% for other buildings – while providing a new emphasis on low carbon heating systems.

This legislative change has highlighted that for non-dwellings, where feasible: “all parts of the system, including pipework and emitters, should be sized to allow the space heating system to operate effectively and in a manner that meets the heating needs of the building, at a maximum flow temperature of 55°C or lower.”

This temperature is key as it will drive change toward using condensing boilers, such as Ideal Heating’s EVOMAX 2 wall hung commercial boiler, which can recover heat that is typically lost via the flue in non-condensing models while also recycling this heat for pre-heating purposes. This more efficient condensing process can only work when the temperature of the water returning to the boiler is less than 54°C.

Granting the chance for change

Naturally, careful budgeting is required by public sector organisations as they look to make the most cost-effective investments across their estates. With the aim of reducing carbon emissions from public sector buildings by 75% by 2037, The Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund is set to share out more than £1.4 billion in grants to aid changes to housing estates across the country by 2025. The next application window to the scheme, Phase 3c, is expected to open to applications in autumn 2023.  

Laying a foundation for better installation

It’s important for local authorities to recognise the need for a methodical approach to their sustainable renovations to deliver the best outcomes and value for money.

Ensuring buildings are well insulated is essential for enabling low carbon heating solutions to do their job to the fullest.  This may mean taking an extended approach to installations in two-year stints. It’s imperative that across the first year, organisations carry out a comprehensive assessment and improvement to their building’s fabric.

By ensuring that cladding, insulation, windows and other fixings are as insulative as possible, organisations can take an initial step forward to being more heat efficient, requiring less energy to keep buildings warm.

Following refurbishment, new heat systems such as heat pumps, such as Ideal’s ECOMOD range, can then be installed and work within an optimised environment. This process is essential as modern heating methods have been designed to work within insulated surroundings for the best effect.  

The right tool in the right place

For local authorities supporting more densely urbanised environments, there are other effective heating options to consider. For example, heat networks use singular heating sources to supply heat to buildings in close proximity with greater efficiency and less usage than individual heating solutions.  You can find out more about heat networks here.

Employing this kind of centralised heating for cities has already received significant support with the ability to provide heating across apartment blocks as well as larger buildings.

Local authorities looking to include heat networks in their renovation plans are eligible to apply for extra funding under the Green Heat Network Fund.

A timeline for success

For public sector bodies, the time is now to come together and build out a framework for more carbon-efficient buildings, through securing new funding and building a foundation of support for when new methods of heating are installed.

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