Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Greening the Meeting House - the story of Cotteridge Local Quaker Meeting (Birmingham)

This week's posting comes from Harriet Martin. Harriet is a retired Near Eastern archaeologist, university lecturer and primary school teacher. She and her husband, Chris, used the skills they gained in the Cotteridge Meeting improvements to refurbish a 1932 semi, now granted "Old Home Super Home" status. As a Resource Person for the Quaker Living Witness Project she has helped run environmental workshops in a number of Quaker meetings.

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The Cotteridge Quaker Meeting House Story

Energy Saving Achievements of Cotteridge Quaker Meeting: with careful analysis, determination, and a concerted effort, 90% reductions in fossil fuel use are possible! Between 2004 and 2010 Cotteridge Quaker Meeting has reduced its energy use by more than 70%. In addition, we are now generating 20% of our original usage. Thus our current energy usage is down to about 10% of our 2004 starting point.

When Cotteridge Quakers started on this road in 2005 we did not know how far we could travel. We stepped forward in faith. We were driven by a concern for our planet and, more prosaically, by a desire to be comfortably warm in meeting.

As we made improvements, our gradually decreasing meter readings were a source of encouragement and strength. Generous gifts of time and money from members of the meeting as well as our growing fuel savings enabled projects to continue.

In retrospect we can see that it was not so much that we 'stepped out on to a road'; rather, we climbed onto a cycle. The cycle wheel went round and round, propelling our projects forward. We repeated time and again the same sequence: problem identification and analysis, Premises Committee suggestions, Business Meeting decisions, fund raising, action, feedback. Members of the meeting who consistently volunteered time and practical skills as well as finance were our energy source. As the cycle turned there was a constant background click of computer keys as the warden read our meters and the convener of our Sustainable Living Group entered them onto spreadsheets for analysis. Encouraging graphs emerged which drove the cycle forward again and again with new actions identified, analyzed, agreed, acted on and tracked by electric meter. Our Quaker community was strengthened, energised and cheered time and again.

As we cycled through the years we added another cog in the wheel gearing, external fund-raising through awards and grants from trusts and governmental bodies. The evidence of our graphs and the enthusiastic efforts of volunteering Friends began to give a Midas touch to our application forms.

The actions we took and the effects they had are mapped on the graph below and then described in detail.

double-click on the table to see an enlarged version and click the 'back' arrow to return to the blog

Detailed chronicle of change at Cotteridge Meeting:

Our meeting house was a good example of experimental 1960s architecture. Pevsner remarked favourably on its (single glazed) glass walls. Walls were solid, three bricks thick. All heating was electric. In the meeting room, powerful storage heaters sat in deep recesses in the walls, separated by a wall one brick thick from the outside. There were eighteen 150W spotlights in the main meeting room plus ten 78W fluorescent strip lights, a total of 3.5kW every time all of the lights were turned on. There was about 5cm of insulation above the ceilings and the in a small void under the felted roof.
We were using somewhat more than 50,000 kWh each year.

• Our new Living Witness Group conducted an audit of the building, identifying the wasteful systems of lighting and heating in addition to the poorly insulated windows, walls and roof.
• Meeting transferred its electricity account to Good Energy which, in theory, comes from 100% renewable sources.
• We calculated heat losses from the roof, walls, windows, floors of the meeting house rooms to assess the probable effects of different insulation measures.
• We replaced the lights with energy efficient alternatives and disconnected half of the fluorescent strips, reducing consumption from 3.5 to 0.9 kW.
• We replaced single glazing with argon filled double glazed units in seven large and high windows in the main meeting room.
Results: Energy consumption dropped by 11%.

• Following the failure of two storage heaters in the meeting room and after extensive consultations and investigations, meeting decided to install an air to air ashp (air source heat pump) in the meeting room in combination with an air distribution unit made by a different manufacturer.

Fitting the air source heat pump

• It took eighteen months before we resolved all of the issues with this installation (noise from poor installation of ducting, noise from a damper accidentally shut, icing up of external unit resulting from a sensor not being turned off). Meeting was very patient and those involved in the Premises Committee were very persistent in seeking solutions. Using a data logger to map the temperature and the activity of the heat pump when the room was unoccupied was key to our final understanding and resolution of the problems.
Results: Energy consumption dropped by a further 17% (28% total saving).

• The two largest walls with the worst heat loss issues in the meeting room were lined on the inside with 57mm of insulation foam bonded onto 12 mm of plaster board. The improved walls were plaster skimmed. The meeting room benches were reshaped. The entire meeting room was redecorated. Insulated linings were added to the curtains.
Results: Energy consumption dropped by another 17% (45% total saving).

• By early spring our issues with the original ashp installation were resolved and the benefits were clear. We agreed to carry the same pattern of improvements into the other main rooms.
• In March Jon Garrett of Encraft surveyed the meeting house as part of the government Community Action for Energy (CAfE) project. The report confirmed the priorities already established and encouraged us to plan eventually for solar PV on our classroom roof.
• We received £1,000 from the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy.
• Air to air ashps replaced storage heaters in the foyer and in the classrooms.
• The foyer and classrooms were dry lined with insulation foam bonded on plaster board.
Results: Energy consumption dropped by a further 2% despite the winter months being on average 2.7DegC colder than in 2007 (47% total saving).

Chris Martin fixing insulating lining in the classroom

• The remaining walls (in the toilets and corridors) were insulated.
• Nearly all of the remaining single glazed windows were replaced with argon filled units with a soft Planitherm Ultra N coating.
• The five remaining storage heaters were replaced with radiators running off one air to water ashp.
• A 'warm roof' was superimposed on the entire meeting house roof and was made ready for solar PV panels.
Results: Energy consumption dropped by a further 20% despite the winter months being on average 0.6 degC colder than in 2008 (67% total saving).

• A 11.1 kWp solar array of 60 panels was commissioned on June 11th. It is hoped this will produce as much as 10,000 kWh of electricity annually. Half of the cost of the array came from a government Low Carbon Building Phase 2 grant. Meeting decided to go ahead with the maximum array despite being told at the last minute that accepting the LCB grant would mean we could not be paid any Feed In Tariff for our generation.
• In October the EU ruled that in cases like ours the Feed In Tariff could be paid and we registered with British Gas for our FiT. We hope to earn around £3,000 annually.
Results: We expect to generate at least 5,000 kWh in 2010. This will be 28% of the 2009 usage and will make a total saving from 2004 of 77%.

Solar electricity panels on the roof of the Meeting House

• A full year’s generation of 10,000 kWh should bring our final savings plus generation up to at most 87% of our original 2004 usage.
• The meeting house still has twelve (opening) single glazed windows. In 2011 we hope to make more progress replacing these with A rated double glazed units.

'Cost Benefit Analysis'
The total cost of our energy saving and generation improvements came to £115,094.
double-click on the table to see an enlarged version and click the 'back' arrow to return to the blog

We are saving about £4,454 annually in electricity costs and using about £384 worth of our own generated electricity, a total of £4,838. Without the Feed-In Tariff (FiT) and without any grants our energy saving measures would have had a financial pay-back time of 23 years at current prices.

We moved forward in faith. Our work attracted grants totaling £70,250, most of this in its last phase after we had measured and graphed our energy savings over four years. These alone would have reduced our pay-back time to 14 years.

Over the five years of this project we were counting and graphing our CO2 savings, not our pound savings. Most notably, Meeting agreed, in May 2010, to accept a 50% government grant for solar PV on our roof. This enabled us to install the largest possible solar array, but we learned just before the installation that accepting the grant meant that we would receive no feed in tariff, even for our 50% of the panels. Meeting was, however, clear that our intent was to generate as much electricity as possible, not as much money as possible and agreed to go ahead.

In October 2010 the European Union ruled that groups that had accepted government grants for their PV were, after all, eligible for the Feed-in Tariff. This means an income in future of about £3,150 from our solar generation. It now appears that our own financial outlay will be recouped in five and a half years.

Carbon Dioxide Benefit Analysis
Cotteridge Friends will be saving over 19,000 kg CO2 annually. Government calculations suggest this almost equals the emissions form two people a year (excluding flights). More recently climate change scientists have suggested that 19,000 kg CO2 is closer to the average emissions for one person in the UK once their purchases of goods manufactured abroad and one short flight are included in the tally. It is vital to remember that 19,000 kg CO2 is the greenhouse gas equivalent of one return flight from the UK to Australia. 19,000 kg CO2 is a great saving, but it needs to be the start, not the end, of the Meeting’s savings.

We Friends need now to replicate what we have achieved in the meeting house in our own homes and in our wider lives. We need to slow down and amble through our days, savoring the delights of friends, family, nature. We need to positively enjoy eating less meat and more vegetables. We need to find our self worth in loving actions, not consumerism. The engine of our actions needs to be love of our planet and love of children as yet unborn, not status and wanderlust.

Our earth is already 0.8 degC up on 1850 temperatures and, according to the Royal Society, is set to rise further between 0.2 to 0.4 deg C each decade. We can’t afford to go much above 2 deg C. Beyond that there is a very good chance that we will trigger uncontrollable global warming. Feedback effects, like the release of methane from frozen tundra and cold seas, will probably push temperatures up yet further.

If CO2 emissions peak now, in 2010, then drop 80% by 2050 and 90% by about 2080, we reduce the chances of run away climate chaos. Cotteridge Meeting has shown this is not impossible. We really can talk about climate change and be positive.

For more on how different levels of temperature rise would affect us, see Six Degrees:our future on a hotter planet by Mark Lynas.

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Cotteridge Meeting - grants received with great gratitude from:
Low Carbon Building Fund Phase 2 (since closed): £23,000
Veolia Landfill Trust (in part payment for a 'warm roof'): £15,000
Central England Area Meeting Property Fund
Britain Yearly Meeting Meeting Houses Fund
Sir James Reckitt Charitable Trust
William A Cadbury Charitable Trust
Edward Cadbury Charitable Trust
CB & HH Taylor Trust
JA Gillett Trust
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Thanks to Harriet for this post.
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