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Cutting energy consumption in public buildings by half

The EU-funded BRICKER project is aiming to show how public buildings such as universities, hospitals and administrative centres can cut their energy consumption in half.

Improving the energy efficiency of public buildings through retrofitting may be crucial to reducing Europe’s carbon footprint, but is not necessarily all that easy to implement. People still have to work in these places, making issues such as health and safety and disruption to the working day critical. Recent developments in an EU-funded project however have shown that the retrofitting of hospitals, education facilities and administrative centres is not only feasible, but could eventually lead to drastic reductions of energy consumption (over 50 %). The ambitious four-year BRICKER project, which began in 2013, is carrying out retrofitting demonstrations at three sites; an administrative centre in Spain, a university building in Belgium and a hospital in Turkey. Solutions include installing made-to-measure façades, innovative insulation materials and high performance windows. In Spain, the demonstration project involves the refurbishment of Extremadura government offices in the town of Mérida. The refit will combine technologies that have never before been used together. In particular, the project consists of integrating Parabolic Trough Solar Collectors (PTC), a biomass boiler, a heat and electricity cogeneration unit based on so-called Organic Ranking Cycle (ORC), an adsorption chiller and a cooling tower. Once complete, it is hoped that the office complex will act as a showcase for the rest of the region, and encourage further use of renewable energies – particularly solar and biomass – both of which the region has in abundance. A replication plan will be drawn up to evaluate the potential for other government buildings to take up the challenge. In Belgium a demonstration is being carried out in a group of buildings belonging to the University of Liège. As in Spain, BRICKER project partners are aiming to carry out a scalable, replicable and highly energy efficient refurbishment of an existing publicly-owned non-residential building, leading to a 50 % energy consumption reduction. A meeting was held at this site in March 2014 to assess progress, and to ensure that the project is on track to achieve its objectives. BRICKER project coordinator Juan Ramón de las Cuevas indicated that a good level of exchange and collaboration within the consortium was evident, and that he was pleased with how the project was unfolding. During this meeting, delegates were shown around the university building and briefed on the technologies to be deployed during the project. The visitors looked at plans to refurbish the heat distribution system and gas boilers and to install aerating windows and energy efficient electric systems. Finally, the BRICKER project’s Turkish site is a university hospital building belonging to Adnan Menderes University, in the town of Aydin. The actual demonstration will involve the installation of lightweight façade coverings, heat recovery systems and parabolic solar panels. Now one year into the project, BRICKER demo site owners have been engaged in public procurement, organising tenders for the purchase of equipment and materials. Associated investment costs of new technologies are expected to represent a maximum of 20% of the total cost of building an equivalent new building in the same location, while the project has estimated a return on investment in approximately seven years.