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Woodfuel to heat Council's new offices

Aerial viewThe design of Staffordshire County Council's new offices, being built in the centre of the county town, will produce 'amazing benefits' and help to reduce its environmental impact. That is the verdict of Tim Reeve, Project Manager of the Tipping Street development.

New Council offices in Tipping Street. Elevations that receive the most direct sunlight throughout the day – east, south and west – will have smaller and fewer windows to prevent overheating in the summer and minimise heat losses in winter. Courtesy of Staffordshire County Council.

Both heating and ventilation will meet the highest standards of energy efficiency, and much of the space heating and hot water will be generated from a biomass boiler fuelled by wood chips supplied from the Council's own woodlands and heathlands. This will reduce the authority’s carbon emissions by over 1750 tonnes per year – equivalent to the annual emissions of nearly 50 households – and will save thousands of pounds.

Some of the hot water will feed the 12 ‘super’ showers that are being provided to encourage staff to leave their cars at home and cycle, walk or even run to work. Tim Reeve, Tipping Street Project Manager, said: “This system...will secure ongoing savings for the life of the building, drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, improve the countryside and bring the cost to tax payers down.  It really is a winner on every level.”

Keeping cool
Another eco-friendly aspect of the new offices will be the reliance on a low-energy ‘upflow ventilation’ system. This will  be cheaper to run and and use less Interior receptionpower than conventional air conditioning. It works by drawing cool air into the building over night during the summer months.  The concrete structure and floors absorb the cool air, which means the building can maintain a comfortable temperature when the sun is shining.  It also uses the natural buoyancy of warm air to remove heat from the area where people are working so that the temperature is at a constant comfortable level.

Artist's impression of reception area. Courtesy of Staffordshire County Council.

Fresh air is brought into the building and is pressurised through an under floor cooling system.  It then rises through lots of floor diffusers and into the office before making its journey back up and out.  Staff and visitors will be able to sense the gentle air movement making the interior feel fresh and more natural.  The system provides good air quality, a more constant temperature and good control of humidity.  It doesn’t need to cool the air as much as conventional systems so it uses less energy, emits lower levels of carbon dioxide and costs less.  Upflow ventilation has been in use for around 50 years and has been tried and tested in countries that are far hotter than England.