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An integrated approach for renewables

Renewable and low-carbon heating technologies are becoming increasingly important to the country’s overall emissions reduction strategy.

There is a growing choice of proven renewable and low-carbon technologies that can be effectively used in public and commercial buildings; however, to deliver maximum benefit they must be considered at the earliest possible stage of the design process - in both new and retrofit projects.

To deliver low-carbon technology solutions into low-carbon commercial buildings, it is essential that good training, education and design/installation/commissioning support is available from manufacturers.

Building and M&E system designers need a sound understanding of low-carbon technologies, their advantages and limitations, to ensure the tangible benefits are not compromised by a lack of education and support.

To realise the full benefits of a low-carbon building, a more holistic approach that considers improving the building fabric, upgrading controls to reduce the energy demand and the addition of any new technologies is needed.

This approach is due to be enshrined in the Eco-design of Energy-using Products (EuP) directive, which has already been approved by the European Commission and is due to be adopted next year.

This legislation is based on the principle that most of a product or system’s environmental impact is decided at the design phase - as much as 80 per cent, according to the EC. The system approach generally offers flexibility to designers and allows for a range of technologies to be used to meet particular energy standards.

Renewable and traditional energy sources, such as gas condensing boilers with solar thermal, are examples of where two technologies work effectively together to deliver significantly reduced carbon emissions and overall reduced heating bills.

A project at Uppingham School in Leicestershire demonstrated how 60 panels (120 sq m) of solar thermal technology can be integrated with an existing hot water system to improve performance and reduce carbon emissions.

Solar DHW was a requirement of the planning application, which raised challenges that were overcome in both the design and installation stages by working closely with the client and installer. This is a prime example of how manufacturers can deliver added-value solutions to meet the needs of their customers.

The industry must be ready for this shift towards the whole system approach. Renewables and low-carbon technologies have a key role to play in reducing carbon emissions. To make this happen though, everyone in the process has an equally important part to play, from the specifiers to contractors and from manufacturers to end-users.

The opportunities are here - let’s seize them with both hands and realise the full benefits a low-carbon future can really deliver.

Jim Moore is regional director, Vaillant Group UK & Northern Europe