This report, released in 2010, is designed for housing associations but is equally useful to home owners and commercial building operators providing templates, tips and hints on how to successfully apply renewable technologies. Similarly whilst the guide has been prepared to assist in new builds much is also relevant for refurbishment projects. It is also supported by an online toolkit.
The report builds on an earlier study "Renewable Technology: A Guide for Housing Associations" by looking not only at the technologies themselves but also the process for design, specification, use and maintenance to ensure the most successful outcome.
Key to this success is the need to ensure that low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies should be considered only after the building has been designed to be as energy efficient as possible but also early within the design process. A number of common items typically overlooked in the design process are the inclusion of heat meters, billing systems, monitoring equipment, space for cylinders and expansion vessels and fuel storage space and access for biomass fuel deliveries.
Furthermore the introduction of LZC technologies can bring additional considerations in relation to ongoing metering and maintenance and servicing requirements and fuel costs and availability, for instance supply for biomass facilities. These need to be fully considered and costed from the outset of a project to ensure that contracts and handover processes are clearly established.
The report points out that energy usage can vary between 250% between homes and that carbon emissions cannot simply be designed away. Often its effectiveness is dependent on the behaviours of residents and caretakers whose needs must also be taken into consideration. These include not only ongoing costs but also noise and visual impacts, for instance flicker effect from wind turbines, thermal comfort and general awareness of sustainability.
Put simply, the more planning that is undertaken upfront the better the outcome is likely to be.
The guide includes a checklist of considerations for specifications and procurement to help housing authorities ask the right questions, but also importantly that these questions are directed to the right bodies. Checklists of considerations are also provided for the management of metering and billing systems as well as the capture of information at commissioning and handover. It also includes a useful comparison of individual LZC technologies comparing considerations for residents, procurement and management of potential income streams associated with each technology and example costs.
Equally important is the commissioning and handover process as it ensures that LZC technologies have been installed as the design team intended and that all the relevant information has been provided and understood by those who will be using and looking after the system. This may include provision of the necessary training, access to the right documents including procedures, trouble shooting guides and key contacts and maintenance schedules.
In addition, it emphasises the need for clarity in the roles and responsibilities of residents, the housing association and sub-contractors within all relevant contracts. Typical roles and responsibilities are outlined as well as cost and charges allocation - an important feature for commercial buildings as well. Similarly resident contracts should outline the methods of recovering the costs of maintenance and servicing and the establishment of a sinking fund is recommended, funded by net rent and service charges.
It explores the key challenges around whether to charge residents for heat and power generated by LZC technologies and the metering requirements to do this. In determining this the report cautions against relying on standard occupancy rates to predict fuel costs, maintenance and servicing intervals and overall lifetime. Housing association residents tend to spend more time in their homes than private residents so standard assumptions will need to be modified in recognition of this. For instance, it may make more sense to specify equipment that requires less frequent maintenance to help minimise resident disruption.
The report also outlines current funding support including grants, Feed in Tariffs (FiTs), cash back schemes and Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs).
Also featured are a number of case studies with practical examples of consortiums developing preferred supplier lists to make it easier for participating housing associations, post-occupancy evaluations, installation of exhaust air heat pumps, wind turbine, biomass and gas CHP systems.
The common thread is the engagement of all players, including residents throughout the process to ensure clear accountabilities and understanding of these roles and the need to take a life cycle view.
© Article 13 - October 2010
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