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UWL transforms to improve Ealing’s air quality and reduce carbon emissions

air quality and reduce carbon emissions
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 18 November 2021: Striving to improve air quality within the borough, the University of West London (@UniWestLondon) has transformed its buildings to save an estimated 500 tonnes of carbon emissions per year – the equivalent of which would take 25,000 trees to offset.   

UWL has introduced low-emission heating and ventilation systems allowing it to create renewable energy sources and upgrade to low-energy lighting, all of which will have a substantial impact on the University’s carbon footprint.   

It means the University is now capable of generating enough energy to heat an estimated 70 homes every year – or enough electricity to make as many as 4,282,560 cups of tea thanks to work to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the amount of energy needed to run its buildings. 

The work, which also included removal of antiquated gas boilers to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution, will help improve air quality around UWL’s main sites in Ealing and Brentford, supporting the region’s transition to becoming a low carbon economy. The project has also been recognised as the top decarbonisation project in the higher education sector after receiving the Highly Commended award in the Energy Managers Association (EMA) Decarbonisation Project 2021 category.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter John, CBE, said:

“As a University, we are taking a leading role in our community and doing our bit to tackle the global climate crisis and build a better future. 

“While there is still a long way to go, this major decarbonisation project will allow us to create our own renewable electricity and run our buildings more efficiently which is going to have a considerable impact here in West London, and further afield.”  

The ambitious retrofit covers UWL’s four sites – St Mary’s Road Campus, Vestry Hall, Drama Studio London, and Paragon House and was made possible thanks to a £5million award from the government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.  

Part of the Chancellor’s ‘Plan for Jobs 2020’, the scheme has awarded more than £1billion to finance the introduction of heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency measures.  

Business and Energy Minister Lord Callanan said:

“Reducing emissions from public sector buildings is crucial to us reaching net zero by 2050, so it’s great to see the University of West London become more energy efficient.

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“Backed by more than £5 million in government funding, the university’s decarbonisation project is a prime example of how we’re supporting the sector to implement new measures that will help us all in the fight against climate change.”

At the heart of the transformation is the St Mary’s Road Campus, where old gas boilers have been replaced with ground source heat pumps alongside 580 solar PVT panels. Those involved with the project include Ameresco, as principal contractor and designer; NIBE Energy Systems, who supplied the heat pumps and solar PVT; and JKN Renewables Ltd who undertook the design, installation and commissioning of the system.  

Mark Apsey MBE, Managing Director of Ameresco, commented:

“We are thrilled to have been able to continue our partnership with the University of West London to implement these important carbon saving projects on their journey to net zero. Our team successfully integrated clean technology solutions that will save over 500 tCO2e per year and reduce local combustion emissions by both reducing and electrifying a significant proportion of the heat demand across the estate. This project is a fantastic example of what can be achieved with existing technologies across the built environment in a relatively short period of time.”

Managing Director at NIBE Energy Systems UK, Phil Hurley, said:

“This project sets a shining example of the benefits of combining PVT with heat pumps by delivering substantial carbon and energy savings. The PVT collector system is an alternative, innovative heat source for use with NIBE ground source heat pumps, harvesting solar energy from the sun to generate electricity while extracting aerothermal heat energy to drive the heat pump process.

“During a particularly important year for climate action, it is a real pleasure to have played a part in delivering what we believe is the largest PVT project of its kind in the world.”

Anthony Noonan, Owner and Director of JKN Renewables Ltd, said:

“This project is the largest of its kind we have been involved in and this has brought with it some interesting and challenging design features for us to overcome. Working with the team at Ameresco to bring the project alive has been a great opportunity for JKN Renewables to showcase what is possible if the system is designed correctly from the beginning and quality products and advanced technologies such as the Nibe ground source heat pump and solar PVT are utilised. We are looking forward to working with both NIBE and Ameresco on future projects of this kind.”

The transformation is helping UWL meet its commitment to becoming a net-zero institution by 2030 – building on work which has already achieved a 60 percent reduction in carbon emissions since 2005.  

It also supports Ealing’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy in a bid to become an international leader in the sustainable delivery of higher education.

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