ECR Net Zero Conference 2024 – Built environment net zero/energy efficiency (ECR Meeting Fund)

Abubakr Ayub (Teesside University) and Aylin Kemal ( Cranfield University) share their takeaways from the parallel session on “Built environment net zero/energy efficiency” at the ECR Net Zero Conference 2024.

We felt privileged to attend the ECR Net Zero Conference 2024 in Birmingham, arranged by UKCCSRC. We attended a parallel session where four presenters showcased their research works on their on-going projects dealing with energy efficiency in buildings.

Figure 1: Hua (Mia) Ben presenting the energy savings model for building retrofits

The first presenter was Hui (Mia) Ben from the University of Birmingham. She delivered an interesting presentation on building energy consumption model. She showed how occupant behaviour changes plays significant role in energy savings of a household. She showed five classifications of occupants’ behaviour known as 1) active spenders, 2) conscious occupiers, 3) average users, 4) conservers, and 5) inactive users. In addition to different occupants’ behaviour, the effect of different insulation applied in construction, different heating technologies and smart metering controls on energy savings is also shown. At last, the adaptive thermal comfort strategy is shown as a suitable approach to achieve energy savings in buildings regardless of the kind of insulation method adopted in the building.

Figure 2: Presentation on Sunrise project by Dr Carol Maddock

The second presentation was from Dr Carol Maddock from Swansea University. She came up with the topic of public engagement and community involvement in renewable energy projects. She is already a part of SUNRISE project in which the main objective is to encourage the engagement of community and ensure their active participation to achieve net zero targets. She shared her experience of travel to a rural area in Maharashtra, India, for the purpose of survey and data collection. They did interviews and group sessions with people from different age groups and sexes and identified the main problems, social and economic values of the community. The engagement with local people in different sessions and during different occasions allowed them to understand the main social challenges, and study what kind of measures should be taken to encourage public involvement in the renewable energy projects. Dr Maddock stressed the importance of community participation, especially in areas with lower awareness of climate change.

Figure 3: Chris Twinn presenting his cost-effective model retrofit for UK housing

The third presentation was given by Chris Twinn in which he showed different possible building retrofit designs for energy savings in building heating demand. His main headline was ‘Making retrofit as cost effective as wind turbines’. In his presentation, he illustrated how combination of different retrofit methods helps achieving cost effective heating in UK buildings.

In addition, he also explained that the standard method for heat pump designing is based on worst weather conditions which leads to oversized heat pumps, therefore he proposed halving heat pump size and its potential benefits in energy savings (MWh/year). By right-sizing heat pumps, it is anticipated that the systems will operate more efficiently and effectively match the heating or cooling requirements of the space. This not only aligns with the principles of sustainable and eco-friendly practices but also contributes to cost savings for end-users.

Figure 4: Guangling Zhao presenting active building model specifications

The last presentation was given by Guangling Zhao from Swansea University. The main theme of her topic is energy cost and carbon cost of building-integrated photovoltaic systems (BIPV). She showed potential benefits of BIPV in terms of reduction in CO2 emissions on one side but rather larger rise in material depletion potential on other side compared to the electricity grid.

The concept of ‘Active Building’ encompasses structures within the built environment, factories, offices, and homes in the UK. These buildings are specifically designed and equipped to efficiently manage energy by conserving, generating, storing and releasing it. The objective of her research initiative revolves around a comprehensive analysis of the economic performance of the Active Building model. This particular study delves into the integration of cutting-edge technologies within the Active Building framework, specifically focusing on building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. The investigation is conducted with a meticulous examination of real operational profiles of the building and the metered energy load profiles it sustains.

The session was ended with 15 minutes of Q/A session and discussion between the presenters on the topic of building retrofits, heat pump retrofitting and the significance of public involvement and engagement in energy efficiency projects.