CASE STUDY: Block R, University of Surrey

The forerunner of the University of Surrey, the Battersea Polytechnic Institute was founded in 1891, but by the beginning of the 1960s, the College had outgrown its main building and in 1962 it was decided to move to Guildford.

In 2016, Surrey celebrated the 125th anniversary of its foundation. While the institution has evolved significantly in that time, its commitment to first-rate academic activity and real-world solutions has remained constant.

In the 2016-17 academic year, there are over 15,000 students at Surrey and it is ranked 7th in the AdvanceHE Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES).

When choosing a university, the range, quality, location and cost of student accommodation on offer will be important factors in making a final decision.

Since 2000, the estate has been transformed through a £400 million building development and improvement programme – including £130 million on student accommodation

The University has more than 5,000 rooms of various types, Peter Holland is the Project Liaison Manager at the University of Surrey and having worked there for more than 15 years has witnessed and been responsible for the developments in the estates facilities, as he explains, “The projects I have worked on have been varied to say the least!  I’ve worked on the Sports Complex with Olympic sized swimming pool, The Vet School teaching facility with labs, The Pathology Centre, The VSC (Veterinary Clinical Skills centre), The Innovation for health building with a 200 seat laboratory, along with a number of accommodation buildings. Blocks P Q and R being the latest a which are quite different.”

“We decided that we were going to go away from wet-heating, and decided we would have an electric system. I looked around and I spoke to AUE [Association of University Engineers]. They suggested, looking at Prefect Controls Ltd.”

Previous accommodation had used ‘wet’ heating systems but these presented issues with control, maintenance, positioning of radiators and such like. Peter continues, “We decided that we were going to go away from wet-heating, and decided we would have an electric system. I looked around and I spoke to AUE [Association of University Engineers]. They suggested, looking at Prefect Controls Ltd.”

“I had a look, and after speaking to other universities, on hearing their delight in the product [Ecostat] with no complaints, we plumped for a system that we had more control over. They [Prefect Controls] got the contract for 240 bedrooms in Block G. That was about 5 years ago. We could set it up and they [students] couldn’t tamper with it. There was a temperature controller and PIR built into the wall unit, we could put ‘set backs’ on it – if students left the room for a period of time it would set back. If they hadn’t been there for 12 hours or whatever it would switch down to frost protection.”

The changes have been gradual, each time getting better and block R is different, taking the lessons learnt from the previous building projects. It was decided to go from local control to centrally controlled heating and hot water – the obvious choice was PrefectIrus.

Prefect Irus is a system that is capable of providing integrated control and monitoring of heating, lighting, ventilation and other key functions from any convenient central location. it offers the benefit of being very easy to use and, because of its’ mains borne signalling operation, is easy to install and therefore cost effective.

Furthermore, it enables management to set and monitor comfort and ‘sleep’ temperatures whilst controlling time profiles in each bedroom separately. This level of individual control over specific rooms is not possible with other building management systems despite their other capabilities.

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.

Additionally, a diagnostic program is included to highlight fault finding and speed up maintenance. Two-way communication is standard with Prefect Irus, so status reports for temperature or boost conditions in any room is available through the password protected “engineer program”, The Prefect Irus engineering status screen allows quick diagnostics of heating, lighting or even cooling for each location.

Because Prefect Irus is a software driven package, it has the ability to provide bespoke features, which have recently been developed to incorporate not only temperature sensing but also humidity and lux sensing and decibel awareness. Each installation can be setup to meet the unique requirements of the client.

Peter continues, “The design process takes about a year and the build is about 2 years, it’s always got to be ready for when the students come back. This accommodation project [Block R] has 647 bedrooms, which we are finishing next year along with 350 rooms coming on line very shortly for students arriving this September (2018).”

There are many factors influencing the choice of heating control system including ease of use, energy saving and cost, and as Peter states, ”cost is always a consideration and Prefect Irus is favourably priced. Contractors are fitting the system, but Prefect are commissioning it and will provide half a day’s training for those that will be operating it later on.”

Simplicity has always been a key component in Prefect’s design process, Peter concludes, “ Looking at the product [Prefect Irus] there are a lot of variations that you can do on it even on the box on the wall, it can display a temperature or a bar – we would always choose a bar, simple, hotter/colder. We have university standards of what the heat should be, and we adhere to that with the parameters we set.”

Monitoring, managing and measuring energy use means students are provided with a healthy, safe and comfortable environment for studying while energy managers are reassured they are only paying for the energy required.