A radical makeover of Bicester Town Council’s offices has achieved impressive savings in energy bills and halved the building’s emissions of climate-changing carbon dioxide, according to a monitoring report by Oxford Brookes University.
It has also made the council’s offices at the Garth more comfortable for council staff, with better ventilation and less overheating in summer.
A major energy saving refit of Garth House was funded by the Department for Energy and Climate Change and administered by Innovate UK, a government agency which backs the development of promising new technologies for businesses of all kinds. The project was led by Bicester Town Council, and project managed by sustainability charity Bioregional. Ridge and Partners LLP were the architects while Researchers from Oxford Brookes University’s Low Carbon Building Group monitored and evaluated the performance of the building before and after the refurbishment.
Several different techniques were used to reduce heat loss and improve ventilation in the poorly insulated and draughty Victorian building in Garth Park. None of them were allowed to change the external experience of Garth House, which was built in the 1830s as a hunting lodge and lies within Bicester’s central Conservation Area.
Among the most innovative of these techniques was WHISCERS – Whole House In-Situ Carbon and Energy Reduction Solution. This uses lasers to measure the dimensions of rooms within the building, with the measurements then being fed into a computer which controls a cutting machine. This cuts large pieces of indoor insulation panels into exactly the right shapes, so that they join up to cover all of the exterior walls.
This was the first time WHISCERS had been used on a non-residential building in the UK. The aim is to allow the work of installing the insulation to happen as quickly as possible with the minimum of disruption for office users. Garth House remained in use throughout the works.
The building uses mainly gas heating and its gas consumption was cut by 67% following the refit. But electricity bills fell too, by 22%, because the retrofit made staff more energy aware and because they made less use of supplementary electric heating in winter.
Overall, these energy savings reduced the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the building’s annual gas and electricity consumption by 48%.
Other members of the team were the main contractors, Kingerlee Ltd and the WHISCERS installers were Proteam Asset Management Ltd.
“Garth House demonstrates how the energy efficiency of historic buildings can be significantly improved without destroying the external appearance or internal layout”
Former Council Leader, James Porter