Architects are frustrated at the failure of local authorities to facilitate the exploitation of combined heat and power (CHP) in the UK.

Energy-efficiency opportunities from CHP are still being wasted through official ignorance and a flawed planning approach, Alan Shingler, chairperson of RIBA’s Sustainable Futures Group told COSPP.
Alan Shingler of Sheppard Robson and RIBA
Mr Shingler said, “The potential certainly isn’t being fulfilled. There is frustration from architects because they can see it is not being utilised to its optimal capacity and where it is designed to be used.”

A failure to couple developments to balance heat and electricity loads means architects see CHP being implemented where it offers no advantages, he added.

“If we can couple developments so that we can increase the heat load and we can break down the barriers between neighbouring developments, for example by combining residential or leisure with an office development, then the office can benefit from the electricity and the residential can benefit from the heat.”

Rank and file architects have continually encountered scenarios whereby negotiations of this kind are not part of the equation, with the end result that CHP is shoehorned into developments, when it is clearly not the right fit.

Shingler believes assistance should be made available to local authorities to enable more judicious use of the clean technology to take place.

RIBA and the Department of Energy and Climate Change have discussed the matter and RIBA also prepared a paper that has been shared with government. All are in agreement that there is a good solution involving the marrying between varying and neighbouring developments, yet there seems to be no real evidence of this joined-up thinking at ground level.

“There is work being done but it is not at the moment filtering down to the guy on the ground who is dealing with an individual planning application with the local authority.

For now you’ll probably see CHP continue to be used on individual developments which is a shame because of the energy and cost benefits lost; sometimes it doesn’t stack up for small developments”.

“Sometimes you see CHP placed into a development when it is a relatively complex system when a boiler would work just as well. There is naiveté about how CHP works and many local authorities are not experienced enough to make decisions on this. Often they don’t have the skills, capacity or the money to evaluate the applications.”

Mr Shingler, who is also a partner at Sheppard Robson, and a recognised expert in sustainable design said the guidance needs to be clear to local authorities on where CHP works and where ‘the threshold is to make it worthwhile.’

“CHP isn’t appropriate for buildings under 100 square feet because you haven’t got the heat loads but over and above 200 you can use the heat for domestic hot water. If there is a guide on what thresholds would make it viable for different building types that would be very useful.”

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