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Sun August 14 2022

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UK’s First Zero Carbon Church Practices What It Preaches

11 Oct 10 Work has been completed on the UK’s first zero carbon church, the grade 1 listed, Norman church of St Michael and All Angels in the Cotswold village of Withington, Gloucestershire.

The works were finally completed after one week of intense activity when solar panels were placed on the roof and the boiler installed and commissioned, meaning that the whole of the church, which dates back to 1140, is now completely heated and powered from renewable energy sources.

The project, which began in 2008, was managed by Matt Fulford who attends the church with his family. Matt worked on the project in a pro bono basis with the backing of his employer, built asset consultancy EC Harris, where he is head of the firm’s sustainability practice.

Commenting on the completion, Matt Fulford said: “We had been concerned that the forecasted weather would prevent us from completing the works as planned but it seems as if the project has been blessed with good weather and hopefully the sun will continue to shine to enable the solar panels to generate maximum power.”

The works on the project have attempted to demonstrate what is possible in terms of energy saving and generation for the local community and within historic buildings. The total heating for the church has been met from a new 38kW biomass pellet boiler and the electrical demand is met from 24 solar panels carefully placed on the nave roof of the church. The selection of the boiler was critical to enable it to fit into the existing undercroft and an innovative self weighted system for the solar panels had to be designed (by Sinclair Johnston structural engineers) to ensure that there were no fixings through the pitched roof.

Matt continued: “We have sought to demonstrate what is possible within existing buildings and how they can positively contribute to the zero carbon agenda.   The test was whether this could be done within the tight constraints of a Grade 1 listed historic building and with the limited financial means of the church. By doing this, and being able to provide the church with an environmentally and economically sustainable position for the future, we have clearly shown the opportunities that exist for all by truly embracing the sustainable future.”

Before any of the renewable energy technology was installed efforts were made to reduce the energy consumption and electricity demand was cut by 40% through adjusting the lighting. The operation of the new boiler allowed a 50% cut in demand of heating times. Even the disposal of the old boiler and pipework was carefully considered as the metal elements were sent for recycling and the income from this paid for the materials for provide a new level floor to the boiler room.

Matt secured grant funding for the works from a number of sources and obtained funding for 90% of the total project costs, the remainder was picked up by the church who decided to decline further funding in order to benefit from the Feed in Tariff.

Matt worked with Dulas Ltd as the installer due to their proactive and flexible approach and willingness to rise to the challenge of installing renewables in such a sensitive environment.

The completion of the project will be officially celebrated with a service at the church on the 21 November by the Suffragan Bishop of Tewksbury, the Rt Revd John Went.

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