While Harry Potter left platform 93/4 from King’s Cross to begin a new chapter at Hogwarts, freshers arriving for their first year at university would also be settling in. Enjoying a £1.82 pint of lager, listening on their discman to Elton John’s number 1 Candle in the wind, a tribute to Princess Diana who had died in August that year – 1997.
This was an age before social media, when it would cost you 10 pence to send a text!
But Steve Jobs re-joined Apple, and was formulating plans for iMac, iPod, iPad, iPhone et al, and that would change our relationship with technology forever.
The UK elected New Labour in May. Tony Blair promised to deliver his parties top three priorities – “Education, Education, Education”.
Students predominantly lived in halls of residence or houses for multiple occupation (HMOs), many with the atmosphere of a hostel and invariably too cold or too hot. New Labour promised that ‘things can only get better”. As part of a major programme to improve student accommodation in York, the University signed a deal with a telecoms provider to fit phones in all student rooms, bringing with it the potential for dial-up data services!
How times have changed in just 25 years!
Prefect Controls was founded in 1997. Its target market centred around commercial providers of rooms, student accommodation, hotels etc, where the excessive use of heating energy by guests, who were not subject to the direct cost, was a real problem. The market requirement was clear, a range of controls that would provide access to adjustment by the guest, while behind the scenes the business owner had overall control of the temperature and time set points. This strategy of identifying the need of both guest and business owner has enabled Prefect Design Engineers to develop a full range of space heating controls from standalone (local control) to a fully centralised system.
As Glen Golding, Managing Director at Prefect says, “Throughout our development, keeping to our original brief – “Clever but simple” – has always been at the forefront of our minds – from the design process through system installation and on to end user experience”.
From what is now considered a very basic timer control, installed in 400 rooms at the University of East London, Prefect has more than 30,000 rooms connected through Irus, it’s central control system, and many thousand more rooms controlled locally using their ecostat2 range.
“Our products make it easy for accommodation providers to maximise energy savings by simply not using energy unnecessarily”. Glen continues. “We consider ourselves to be a problem-solving company and utilise the latest technologies to help customers resolve the issues they have. This has developed from straightforward temperature control to the monitoring for unusual levels of humidity, decibels, light and CO2, any of which can make a room an uncomfortable living and studying environment”.
Outside the student bedrooms, Prefect also control hot water, detect leaks, sense when fire doors are opened and ensure hobs cannot be left on when the person using the cooker is distracted and leaves the kitchen.
With universities working overtime to meet net zero targets by 2030, Prefect are in greater demand than ever. Glen concludes, “What we are doing today is a far-cry from where we started. 25 years has seen a lot of changes in how student accommodation is considered by providers, and we have been very fortunate to have ridden the two waves that are, the proliferation of excellent quality rooms, and the necessity to control and conserve the use of energy”.