A first-class solution to school heating needs
The Government's Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP), brings opportunities for HVAC contractors. However, they also face boiler replacement challenges, says Eleanor Fox
The Government's flagship Priority Schools Building Programme (PSPB) is a scheme which overhauls the previous Building Schools for the Future (BSF) initiative. It takes on board the recommendations of the James review, advising how capital investment should be allocated across schools.
The PSPB's introduction in July 2011 followed strong protests from UK schools and local authorities in the aftermath of the abolition of the BSF scheme, dubbed as 'bureaucratic and wasteful' by the Coalition.
Shortly after its launch, the Government invited bids for the programme. Out of the 587 schools that applied, 261 were successful, and have been granted permission and funding for either re-building or repair through the PSBP to ensure that their condition needs are met.
Forty-two of the 261 schools included in the programme will be directly funded by the Government using capital grants to the tune of £400 million. These will be procured in eight batches. The PFI element of the PSBP will invest £1.75 billion into fit-for-purpose educational facilities while claiming to offer greater value for money than BSF.
In February 2013, we saw the first two multi-million pound contracts awarded.
The first of these includes nine schools in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside which will be rebuilt or refurbished to the value of £64 million by McAlpine. Meanwhile, Wates has successfully bid for a £36m contract in Coventry, which will mean new buildings for six schools. Contracts for six other areas are still to be awarded.
The PSBP may not be as ambitious a scheme as BSF, but it still offers significant opportunities for HVAC contractors.
After all, one of the scheme's key objectives is to improve energy efficiency and cut fuel costs as part of the restoration to school buildings in urgent need of repair. PSBP demands a sustainable approach to design and construction which among its defining criteria specifies that works on school buildings reduce the demand for energy and water use, and minimise CO2 emissions.
But in carrying out any HVAC works, the particular challenges of working in schools (especially when boiler replacement is required) must be borne in mind.
Primarily, time is of the essence.
Under PSBP, construction works will have to be planned and, where necessary, phased so that there is minimal disruption to the school. This will involve contractors working in holiday periods when the school will be closed and to tough, high-pressured timescales.
At the same time, the available plant room space in existing, older buildings - many of which will feature in the PSBP - is often restricted to eye-wateringly tight levels.
Requirements include speed
It's clear that speed and ease of boiler installation become key requirements in any specification to deliver a more energy-efficient heating system for a school.
We've recently worked on one refurbishment project in Edinburgh which brought these issues into sharp focus, and where the contractor, Wise Gas Services, shaved an estimated three full days off the installation time because of the boiler selected.
St George's School for Girls in Edinburgh was established in 1888 and now occupies 15 acres of land in the Murrayfield area. The school moved to its present site in Windmill Brae in 1914 into purpose-built premises designed by the architect Balfour Paul. The original building now constitutes the Upper School and is Grade B listed. With its six boilers having done 20 years of service, an upgrade to the boiler room was required to ensure the delivery of energy and cost savings and to optimise heating efficiency.
Having already used the Vokèra CondexaPRO system for a number of installations, including Edinburgh Academy and the Royal Lyceum Theatre in the city, the system was a natural choice for installer Ed Wise.
'The original specification dictated a different manufacturer's product but the longer flue lengths that could be achieved with the CondexaPRO resulted in both cost and time savings so we were able to convert the specified product. This is a very easy system to fit and has proved very reliable in all of the situations where we have installed it.'
The project involved removing the original boilers and connecting the new boilers to the existing heating system. The old internal and external flue system also had to be removed and was replaced with Vokèra's easy-to install push-fit system, which is smaller and less obtrusive, so ideal for a listed building. The smart flue components added to the speed and ease of installation, resulting in the three-day time saving.
This four 100kW boiler installation is just one of many CondexaPRO cascade systems installed in the UK. Designed for light commercial use, the CondexaPRO can provide water to three different circuits at different temperatures, either supplied as direct take offs or via a header system utilising controls, making it perfectly suited to this project.
Another aid to a fast installation for Wise Gas Services was the intelligent frame for the boilers which enables free-standing installation in both cascading and stand-alone configurations. Using the frame makes it very easy to build the system and helped save additional time for the contractor.
Vokèra's condensing technology with pre-mix combustion delivers a combination of performance efficiency and low running costs, with a minimum of polluting emissions due to the controlled pre-mix burner and micro-flame burner combination. Electronic control and modularity mean that the boilers can be quickly connected to any type of heating and hot water system. Built-in temperature control and weather compensation are standard to maximise energy efficiency. The CondexaPRO range also consists of pre-assembled box units up to 6.9MW for internal and external installations, ensuring that when space is an issue there is a CondexaPRO solution that is the ideal fit.
The system is now up and running and the school is benefitting from a more efficient heating system, lower fuel bills and a reduction in carbon emissions.
As more school contracts are awarded under the PSPB, the fuel and carbon saving benefits achievable through boiler replacement will surely generate plenty of business for HVAC contractors. But the ease of installation and time-saving benefits, as demonstrated on this particular project, must also be considered as every bit as important to a successful school renovation.
// The author is marketing director of Vokèra //
17 April 2013