By Chris Brierley, Head of Corporate Affairs at ABC
The message was loud and clear at this week’s ABC event , whilst many acknowledge heat pumps have a role to play as the UK looks to decarbonise, there are other solutions to heat our homes and buildings.
A GATHERING OF MINDS
Our “Infra-red and other sustainable heating innovations” event brought together some leading players in the UK market currently looking at infra-red (IR) technology and other heating solutions. Later we we’re told this was one of the first time many of those working in this space had come together!
Whilst media reports around replacing gas boilers usually point toward air source heat pumps as the natural replacement, there is actually an array of other tech out there, but the problem is lack of awareness and knowledge. Some UK government funding and policy approaches have prioritised heat pumps over everything else, and the view from the floor was that needed to change. For electric heating generally there is also a need to improve standards that sit behind Energy Performance Certificates and SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure).
But things could be changing soon, at the event we heard from a technical expert within the new Energy Security and Net Zero department around the type of research being funded by Westminster into Infrared technology. It is hoped that this data will help make the case for fairer assessments and inclusion of wider technology within policy, funding and regulation of energy in buildings.
ABCS APPROACH TO ENERGY
Since 2019 ABC has worked with partners on over 100 construction projects and key to our active building approach is energy systems integration, the kit does vary and what we say is you need to take a technology appropriate approach for each job. As part of the event we launched our ABC insight paper into that systems integration authored by our non executive director Dr Kerry Mashford OBE. In the paper she explains how ABC has worked to integrate energy systems as part of adopting the active building principles in the design and build of properties.
The document takes the reader on a journey to integration through various stages of a project life cycle − from design and selection of technologies, procurement and installation, all the way to maintenance and user involvement. The importance of interoperability and of the development of collaborative and cross-industrial standards is also discussed, and the document concludes with practical suggestions to reduce barriers and increase the extent and speed of deployment of integrated building energy systems.
Debate took place in the hall and it came around the technicalities of what actually makes something a true infra-red heater this caused some discussion, but one thing people did agree on was that the current rules and regulations don’t help support the uptake of the technology and in fact hinder it. A civil servant from the newly created Department of Energy Security and Netzero said he hoped things would be made better with the launch next month of the new version of the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP), the jury is out.
We also heard from a psychologist around a study into the pros and cons and lived experience of having IR in homes. The flexibility of IR was a key winner and the ability to control your own thermal warmth and comfort. Something which links nicely with the ABC 3C’s ! Downside was cold spots not covered by the IR panels, but overall the survey as part of the study was positive. Again the lack of awareness and knowledge is currently a barrier for many.
In preparation for the event, we wanted to signpost people to a place online for independent advice with regards to IR… sadly one doesn’t exist currently on UK webpages, you can find stuff in German and Dutch, but it does once again demonstrate that whilst there are is an array of different heating solutions to gas boilers, if we are to move away from the boiler more impartial information and data is needed to give people confidence to make the move.
ABC’s Chief Executive Dan Cook closed the event and nicely summed up the opportunities and challenges facing the industry. Collaboration will be key if we are to scale at pace and we will need better policy and standards which are inclusive of a wider range of technologies to address the growing need and demand. Standardisation based on actual performance – whether that be SAP, EPC and others must be addressed and finally those looking to provide those innovative heating solutions will need to master the 3I’s … of Integration, Interoperability and crucially Information !