CASE STUDY: University of Bath – Polden

The University of Bath is home to almost 18,000 students representing more than 130 nationalities. It consistently ranks within the top ten UK universities – recently 4th out of 122 for ‘The student experience survey’ and 6th best university in the UK by ‘The Guardian university guide.’

Planning consent was received in Autumn 2016 for Polden, a 293-room facility located on the western side of the Claverton Down campus. The accommodation consists of 37 flats across two buildings arranged around a landscaped courtyard. The flats are organised in pairs with a shared kitchen, diner and flexible social space. Other facilities within Polden include a café, communal study spaces, drying rooms and cycle storage. Polden is due to be fully functional by Autumn 2018.

Mark Comerford is the Mechanical and Electrical Consultant for the project. His company, MEP Engineering Solutions Ltd., based in Bristol have completed numerous commercial contracts for care homes, offices and large residential projects. In the last 5 years MEP have worked on a number of student accommodation projects amounting to more than 2000 rooms in the cities of Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol, Portsmouth and Bath.

“One of the initial considerations was whether the building was going to be provided with wet, gas fired, or electric heating. The concern with electric was running cost. They [the university] had researched controls for electric heating and discovered Prefect Irus”.

Prefect Irus, designed and manufactured by Prefect Controls, is now installed in over 20,000 rooms across the UKs university accommodation estate. The system is easy to operate, simple to install and can generate energy savings of around 40%.

More a BEMS than a thermostat – Prefect Irus manages, measures and monitors temperature, light, humidity, noise and ventilation in individual rooms from a central control unit. It offers the benefit of being very easy to use and, because of mains borne signaling operation, it is easy and virtually non-invasive to install and therefore cost effective.

Furthermore, it enables management to set and monitor comfort and ‘sleep’ temperatures while controlling time profiles in each bedroom separately. For student accommodation the system allows the onsite management team to tailor the time temperature profile to achieve the maximum energy saving possible, while providing a comfortable living environment.

The Prefect Irus interface unit is connected to the building power supply and a broadband internet connection. The systems software then allows secure access from anywhere with internet connection.

Mark continues, “The University did their own assessments and made the commercial decision to use electric heating for the Polden project – the capital cost was presented to the appointed contractor RDM who are based in Swansea, they are the installing contractor. The University looked at what this system could do and looked at the energy savings it can provide and put that into their model. We looked at the technical specification – whether it fitted, would it do the job? Would it deliver the temperatures? Etc. All these boxes were ticked so we were introduced to Prefect Controls through the Environmental and Energy Manager.”

Mark adds, “Prefect presented to the university, who then passed it by us and we agreed that this was suitable for the project. As an electric system, there really isn’t a lot of competition, no one else offers the full range of controlling services as with Prefect Irus. Pretty much every job we work on involves a full Building Energy Management system, but Prefect Irus is more bespoke and sits in this market-place better than traditional BEMS companies, who tend to have a more holistic approach to building management. But they don’t drill into particular control strategies that are needed for each of the services, whereas Prefect focus on heating and ventilation and offer all the functions that they require. The Prefect solution went quite a way to reducing the running costs.”

The savings with Prefect aren’t purely through monitoring the amount of energy being used as Mark explains “Bath University have Triad warnings on their campus so they will be taking advantage of DUOS and TUOS and adding that in to their calculations of savings as between 5pm-7pm they have a TRIAD period. So, as part of the commissioning set up they will be looking to turn heaters off or put them to a setback temperature. Irus gives them an easy facility to do that”.

For both retrofit and new build projects Prefect Irus provides a cost-effective control system that has proven to reduce energy costs through its cleverly simple design and operation. But with all the other features such as monitoring of light, humidity and noise levels as well as indication of failing third party components such as water heating thermostats and leaking tanks, Irus is creating safer, more comfortable environments, for an enhanced student experience.