Last Saturday I attended Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s 35th birthday party at the Warehouse, which also doubled up as a chance to demonstrate how we have been making the building more energy efficient.
I work as an energy assessor and I provide people with advice as to how to live more energy efficient lives at home, including advice on physical property measures such as installing insulation. I was excited to see how BFoE had improved the energy efficiency of the Warehouse considering that the Warehouse is an old Victorian building that was probably very energy inefficient 35 years ago.
Phil led us outside to see one of the walls that are being renovated. The wall in question is one of the outside walls and is being insulated in what is known as solid wall insulation. Unlike cavity wall insulation, solid wall insulation costs thousands, is invasive and requires space for the solid wall to go into. Having this installed impressed me, as it demonstrates the commitment that BFoE has to energy efficiency. Phil talked us through the solid wall insulation, why it was being installed and the practicalities involved. In my job I often talk to people about various forms of insulation but I do not get to see the insulation actually being installed. I was interested to learn things like the different types of material that can be used in insulation and why they chose polystyrene. There is no magical substance for insulation with different products having different pros and cons.
After Phil had explained solid wall insulation, we moved inside to look at the biomass boiler. The biomass boiler uses wood as a source of fuel rather than gas, which is commonly used to heat homes. I had never seen a biomass boiler so I was fascinated to actually view one and learn how it works. Phil explained how special wood pellets are used and transported to the boiler via a separate mechanism. He also explained that because the wood pellets are combustible, a lot of special measures have to be taken to prevent the wood exploding.
Phil has a great knowledge about all of the measures taken to improve the energy efficiency of the Warehouse. There were far more measures that we did not get to see that the Warehouse has utilised. Things like solar panels, loft insulation, and double glazing are examples of this. Phil told me that the energy performance certificate of the Warehouse would be roughly C rated after the solid wall insulation was finished. Initially, I would imagine the building would have been either F or G rated so going from F to C is a great achievement and proves the commitment of our organisation to practice what they preach.