Carbon Innovation Programme 15/16 Projects

Wind Responsive Extract at Chemistry Research Lab


From left to right: David Moore, MSc Environmental Change and Management, William Darby, MEng Materials Science, Seth Collins, MSc Environmental Change and Management, Aven Satre Meloy, MPhil Geography and the Environment

The group focussed on identifying solutions around the science area, this was because it had been identified that 76% of carbon emissions come from this area. During the idea discussion workshops at the Carbon Innovation Programme launch a project being carried out at Southampton University was mentioned and the team set to work to find out how it could be applied to Oxford University.  The teams final proposal was for a ‘Wind Responsive Extract Project’ to reduce energy use and carbon emissions from the Chemical Research Laboratory (CRL).

The project aims to develop a Variable Air Volume (VAV) system that sets the minimum fan speed for the CRL’s eight laboratory exhaust stacks based on local wind conditions. Currently, all eight exhaust fans operate at one constant volume flow rate setting irrespective of wind conditions. This proposed fan optimization system will allow the exhaust fans to operate at variable volume flow rates, adjusted based on wind conditions, which can significantly reduce the energy use of the system. An initial feasibility assessment for the CRL estimated that the potential energy savings associated with converting the laboratory exhaust systems to VAV control is on the order of £40,000 per year. The project could save 186 tonnes of carbon.

After being awarded the funding to carry out the project, the team have been working closely with Estates Services to manage the project. Being closely mentored by the Environmental Sustainability team the group have assumed responsibility for different phases of the work, including contracting out modelling and feasibility studies, liaising with the CRL’s management team, attending to health, safety, and planning requirements, and conducting research on other similar projects that have been developed in the UK.

Team member Aven Satre Meloy says of his experience, “I am excited to be participating in the Carbon Innovation Programme because it has given me the opportunity to work with other students to directly reduce the University’s carbon footprint. Proposing a project and carrying it through to completion is an excellent addition to my coursework; the experience of pitching and managing a project of this size and scope is invaluable, and it wouldn’t be possible without an avenue such as the Carbon Innovation Programme through which I can work with University Estates and other Oxford mentors to have this kind of impact.”

Seth Collins adds, “The Carbon Innovation Programme is an excellent opportunity for students. I would even call it an “electric” opportunity.”

The team hopes to see the project through the initial modelling and assessment stages to the actual testing and implementation/commissioning of the project.


Setting Carbon Targets

Alex Leide, a first year DPhil in Materials Science, and Howard Noble, Head of research support in IT Services, proposed a project to visualise energy consumption of buildings to its users and collaboratively set targets and rewards for carbon reduction.

At the University of Oxford carbon targets are not devolved however the bills are. Most users never see the bills and do not have an understanding on how much of their research grant or departmental funding is used on paying for day to day operational costs of their space.

By displaying the half hourly data and cost of the building to the users in a visual and engaging manner it is hoped that this will give building managers more material to work with in achieving carbon targets. Carbon targets will be set in collaboration with thsystems linke Building Managers and should be SMART. To improve engagement, where Green Impact teams are present in a department they will help agree the target and methodology.

Alongside reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption, the building will be saving money. It is important that the building users see these savings or a proportion of these. This would need to be agreed with the departmental administrator as it would affect the budgets. The funding allocations should be decided by the building and its users but some ideas include more energy saving devices, equipment upgrades or event a student bursary!

The University is currently installing a new energy management software that will help support this initiative. The project should be live in July allowing work on the targets and incentives project to proceed in August 2016.


Sculpting Heats and Minds

Matt Smart, a member of staff from the Knowledge Exchange and Impact Team proposed a bold behavioural change project ‘Engage to convert’ using sculpture.

In Matt’s words: ‘Words are blunt tools for engaging people on emotional issues.  Arts are potent for communicating on carbon, where evidence and policy have proved less persuasive than passionate belief.’

Sculptures will be placed in prominent places in high energy usage areas for up to a month.