A couple of years ago I gave some advice to Castle College in Nottingham about a potential new teaching Centre.
Smartlife Centre Hamburg
The idea was to add to an existing teaching set of courses. The College had (and still have) popular courses in building – bricklaying, plastering, plumbing etc.
As the College were becoming involved in new builds at Highfields Science Park and the main Centre in Chilwell we started to think about how the College could learn from these real life projects. The College always make sure that any building contracts have an ability for their own students to see progress formally during the build.
We also started to see in increase in the use of new technology for carbon reduction. We were being encouraged to look at Photo-Voltaic cells, Ground Source Heat Pumps, high levels of insulation, double and triple glazing, rainwater harvesting, biomass boilers and the like. But what was evident was that although these new technologies were being specified by Architects, the operatives fitting them were often struggling. Or you had to employ specialist sub-contactors (some of whom travelled miles thus negating some of the green credentials?).
We went to see two Smartlife centres -one in Malmo, the other in Hamburg. These centres were way ahead of the UK – and were brilliant showcases for some of the technology.
I was delighted to see that a Centre in the UK has been opened. It has been built by Wolseley – the worlds largest heating and plumbing supplier. It is known as the Sustainable Building Centre. It is a showcase for around 170 products – with information on a total of 7,000 – all under one roof.
Like the Genesis Project in Taunton, the centre uses the technology in it’s own construction. But there is a subtle difference. I visited Taunton and we saw quite specialised construction – including rammed earth and straw bales. This hasn’t found its way in to the Wolseley centre – it isn’t scalable enough to be distributed.
So, although the centre is pushing new technology – it is with a very close eye on commerciality. And for this reason, I think it an excellent project. Sometimes, I think we fall too easily for the green technology on the basis that it sounds sexy. The reality is that some of it is not really commercially viable – payback times can sometimes go beyond the life of the building!
In a recent report to Government the easiest and cheapest way of achieving a substantial CO2 reduction was highlighted as turning down room thermostats by 1 deg C. This is estimated to reduce, in the UK, emissions by 5.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually!
Sadly, the LSC funding for College schemes like the Sustainable Building Project pretty much dried up before we were able to get a centre built in Nottingham. Maybe one day someone will realise we need this sort of centre – for future builders!