Making Efficiencies, Benefitting Research

Since the start of the 2015/16 academic year, the school of BIO and UEA Sustainable Ways have collaborated in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of the School.

In 2014-15 the School of Biological Sciences (BIO) used over 2 million kWh* of electricity.

The equivalent could power over 540 average UK households for a year.

High energy consumption by labs is caused by a number of factors, but the main usage comes from the powerful fans required for fume cupboards, as well as from lab equipment, space heating, and lighting.

We have been working behind the scenes to make efficiency savings since the beginning of the project. This has included work on:

  • Electricity monitoring: Which areas of the building are drawing the most energy, and where can this be improved.

  • Ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers: How can we best replace inefficient machines and improve routine care and usage.

  • Monitored room temperatures: Are we over- or under-heating certain areas.

  • How can we use building improvements to make energy savings too.

(* 2,172,419kWh)


Energy Useage

Month-to-month, the total kWh usage in BIO is fairly regular, although there is an annual pattern to fluctuations.

We have  committed to reducing our electricity consumption by 25% by 2020, against a 2013/14 baseline. As BIO is one of the big energy consumers we have been monitoring its energy consumption and making efforts to try and reduce it to meet the target.

So far the usage for 2015/16 has been 0.87% higher than the average of the last three years, and 0.22% higher than the 2013/14 baseline.

New metering

We have a range of meters in various areas throughout BIO. However these are only able to give high-level indicators of power usage.

We are installing a number of new electricity meters on each floor in BIO. This will enable more granular data from the Building Maintenance System, and allow us to focus our efforts when trying to reduce BIO’s energy consumption.

We are producing a guide to best practice in labs. This will aim to equip lab users with the knowledge they need to run their labs efficiently, both in terms of energy usage and in efficiency of operation.

Register for Sustainable Labs Guide

Lab audits

We are currently carrying out small equipment audits on a lab by lab basis. Vikki Rees, Energy Officer, hopes to identify the collective impact of common equipment across the School and opportunities for making efficiencies without negatively impacting on research.


Uly Freezers

We identified 27 ultra-low temperature freezers across BIO and the BMRC, and were able to audit 22.

An average day sees over 400kWh of usage, the same amount used daily by 36 UK households, and annually the total cost is over £16,900.

The audits consisted of fitting a small plug-and-play energy monitor to the freezer units, and recording the data after several days. Seal tests were carried out to ensure freezers were well maintained, and usage data about each freezer (such as % filled, last defrost date etc.) were collected to provide some context for our results.

The freezers’ energy usage varied greatly, with some machines being well maintained and operating efficiently and others (dubbed ‘zombie freezers’) drawing as much as three times the energy of the more efficient freezers.

ULT Freezer Guidance

With this information we were able to produce personalised audit certificates and guidance tips for each freezer's users on how they could make their freezer more efficient. Our new ULT Freezer Management Guide gives full details on how to ensure that freezers are operated as efficiently as possible

ULT Freezer Managament Guide

Equipment Upgrade Funding

Do you have old or inefficient equipment that we could help you upgrade?

Contact Vikki Rees, Energy Officer with suggestions or questions.

This graph (right) shows the extent to which the power usage of the freezers varied.

The most inefficient freezer consumed almost three times as much as the most efficient freezer.

It is important to remember that the average UK household uses around 4,000kWh (DECC, 2015). This means that even the most efficient ULT freezers consume similar amounts of energy to a whole house, and highlights why it is so important to try and reduce their impact.


Temperature Monitors

We have installed a number of temperature monitors to make sure that we’re keeping the building within an acceptable temperature range*. So far this year, the building has been in the 'comfortable' temperature range for 70% of the time during peak occupied hours.

Temperature monitors have been installed so that we can establish how the building heats and cools, and if there are any major factors that clearly affect the temperature. They record the temperature every 15 minutes. These data are then analysed from the Building Maintenance System (BMS) by our team.

To date, corridor temperatures have been confirmed to have more stable temperatures than individual rooms. They fluctuate less overnight and over the weekends. The south side of the building is the warmest area of the building.

During the work week the average temperatures across the building have not gone higher than 23.6°C or lower than 20.2°C. We acknowledge that there will be areas of the building that may be higher or lower than this range.

If you know of an area that is consistently too warm or too cold then it is important that you report it to the Estates Helpdesk. It might be an issue with the heating or the building itself, both of which can be addressed. Get in contact by emailing, or calling ext.2121.

These graphs show what percentage of time was either ‘too cold’, ‘comfortable’, or ‘too hot’, across the whole of BIO.

The measurements were taken from 14 monitors every 15 minutes between 8am and 5pm. During the week the building tended to be ‘comfortable’, however at the weekends when it was not heated it tended to cool down.

Despite turning off the heating for summer, both the weekends and weekdays had a tendency to overheat some of the time. However, the majority of the time it is still within a ‘comfortable’ temperature range.

* We aim to heat buildings within a 19-21ᵒC temperature range during working hours (08.00-17.00) on weekdays during the heating season


Infrastructure Upgrades

As part of our Energy and Carbon Reduction Programme, UEA Estates have committed to taking advantage of building infrastructure upgrades for simultaneous energy efficiency projects.

Water tank removal

The Engineering Team within Estates are in the process of removing a large water tank, left over from when BIO had a much higher water demand. Due to changes in research and building use, and to upgrades in water efficiency, one of the building's two tanks can be removed.

As well as being part of our asbestos removal programme, this will lead to less heat loss and more efficient water storage.

Reroofing programme

As part of an ongoing reroofing programme by the Maintenance Team across campus and the Lasdun Wall in particular, our Engineering Team will be replacing fans for air extraction.

More efficient motors will use less energy, and the team will also be implementing a dynamic extraction system. This will see fans switching off where possible when their respective fume cupboards are switched off.

The Estates teams are working closely with Faculty staff to ensure that all changes are appropriate to user needs and are responsive to any issues or new ideas.

Do you have any ideas?

Contact one of the following with any ideas: