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Award Winning Sustainable Children's Centre: A Case Study

By: Susan Hunt MA - Updated: 26 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
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An award winning children’s centre in a picturesque area of Wales is helping to keep the Rhondda Valley “green.”

The valley, known across the globe from the classic film How Green Was My Valley, is home to the Rhydyfelin Children’s Centre which incorporates a range of environmental and energy saving features.

Built at a cost of £2 million, the centre won a prestigious national energy efficiency award soon after construction.

External Funding

It was funded by a variety of sources including the Big Lottery Fund, the Welsh Assembly government and Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council.

Thanks to its innovative features, energy use at Rhydyfelin is only around 30 per cent of that quoted in the Energy and Water Benchmarks for Maintained Schools in England.

Energy Saving Features

The centre features ground source heat pumps, photovoltaic panels and individual heat recovery ventilation systems as well as a rainwater harvesting system which provides all the water required for toilet flushing.

Publicising Renewables

As well as catering for pre-school children, the centre incorporates drop-in rooms which are used for short courses and because it is also used as a meeting point for local residents, it is helping to spread the renewables message to the local community.

The Council’s Capital Projects Manager, Gerald Israel, said systems were designed to be as simple as possible. There is no control panel and all items of plant are controlled from the ground source heat pumps.

Renewable technologies provide more than half of the total energy requirements of the building and the rainwater system contributes 17.5 per cent of all water requirements.

Additional Benefits

Thanks to the 20,000 litre rainwater storage system there was no need to install a separate fire main for the site.

The centre has hosted meetings and tours for people interested in renewable technologies and it has also been used for “hands on” renewables projects involving college and university students.

Mr Israel said in its first 12 months, Rhydyfelin’s energy saving features reduced carbon emissions by 3.6 tonnes and saved 13 tonnes of C02.

The capital costs of Rhydyfelin were very similar to those of a traditional building but Mr Israel said the incorporation of renewables helped significantly in winning external funding.

Paving the Way

He said the success of the project had also encouraged the council to consider renewables for all new projects and the centre has provided an opportunity to assess the benefits of different technologies on an ongoing basis.

Following the opening of Rhydyfelin, the council decided to convert its first comprehensive school from coal fired to biomass boilers and has also incorporated renewable technologies in a new school building.

Major Power Savings

Latest calculations show the centre’s power usage is running at 99 kwh per square metre against the average use in similar buildings of 370kwh – and this does not take account of its longer opening hours.

Many local nurseries are open from 7am until 5pm or 6pm whereas Rhydyfelin has much longer opening hours.

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