The University of the West of England (UWE) is benefitting from investing in a heating control system that is saving energy in student accommodation. Work began during the pandemic. Contractors took advantage of empty blocks, installing Prefect’s Irus system throughout the 1900+ rooms at Frenchay Campus, Bristol.

Prefect’s local controls had been in place since the site was built in 2006. Kirsti Norris, Energy Manager at UWE, calculated that greater savings could be attained with a central control system. (Irus)  Particularly as old heaters, that had come to the end of their natural lifespan, were being replaced on an adhoc basis, with a variety of off-the-shelf replacements. A new system with window-open technology and absence detection would ensure empty rooms were not being heated.


A plan to meet targets

The plan needed to be implemented to ensure that targets could be met as outlined in ‘Strategy 2030 – Transforming Futures’. This initiative announced the University’s ambitions for carbon neutrality and net-zero emission of greenhouse gases.

Melissa Clarke, Energy Projects Manager, was tasked with delivering the new system. She comments, “The installation went surprisingly well, considering the circumstances of working around lockdowns and ensuring the safety of any students on site and the contractors”.


Intelligent control and monitoring – remotely

The installation began in between lockdowns in 2020 and was completed by June 2021.

The Irus system’s Setback temperature maintains a comfortable environment while occupants are in their room. When a room is vacant or windows are opened, heat input is reduced. Students can Boost their room’s temperature. But, profiles set via the internet portal, will return the room to the Setback temperature after a pre-determined time. This ensures the thermostat cannot be turned to ‘max’ and remain there all term!


…The same period 2022/23 saw [energy consumption]
reduced to 3.2Million kWh (22% saving).

…at the current tariff this equates to just under £150,000 [saving] per year.

Energy and Accommodation Teams satisfy individual student’s temperature preferences without having to visit the room. An example of this is international students that may find it a challenge to adjust to the cooler British climate. With local control and so many rooms, this can soon get out-of-hand, as settings soon become inconsistent across the site. As Melissa points out, “With Irus – at the beginning of each year we simply click ‘All rooms’ and ‘Reset’ on the portal. We then know that we are starting the year with every room complying to our heating policy.”

Ease of use, and monitoring of light, humidity and sound pressure make Irus a powerful tool in managing student comfort. But, it’s saving energy in student accommodation that makes the business case.


22% = £106,000 saving*

Pre-installation 2018/19 the heating of rooms across the site consumed 4.1Million kWh of electricity. The same period 2022/23 saw this reduced to 3.2Million kWh (22% saving). With increased energy costs, this demonstrates a comparative saving of over £106K* per year. But, at the current tariff this equates to just under £150,000 per year. (May 2023)


Expanding Irus across new developments

Melissa concludes, “We are very happy with the results we are seeing here and we’re extending the system into a new development that is currently under construction. The use of Mains Borne Signalling for communication between the room control units and the portal means it’s very easy and cost-effective to add rooms without the expense of extensive data cabling. The system simply uses the Earth and Neutral of the existing electrical wiring to transmit data.”


Additional features bring additional savings

Irus is now installed in more than 100 other sites across the UK with over 50,000 control units monitoring environmental conditions and saving energy in student accommodation. On average installations that use all the Irus features can expect to save up to 40% on energy costs for space and water heating.

* At the prevailing tariff (2022)