Despite the stop-start trials and tribulations of the Covid-affected 2020 and 2021, the retrofit at The Oxfordshire Golf Hotel and Spa is said to have already seen its thermal energy demand reduced by 93 percent.
A ground-breaking project that flies in the face of ‘rip it up and start again’, the venue, built in 1994, now has an energy demand input of less than 100kWh, compared to its previous load requirement of 1,410 kWh.
The Oxfordshire’s General Manager, Ryan Bezuidenhout teamed up with Geyser Thermal Energy to use the natural resources on site; primarily connecting heat pumps to one of the venue’s four lakes.
Geyser’s founder, Lolli Olafsson, is keen to point out that what’s uniquely happening at The Oxfordshire is not all about numbers. Nonetheless, in what is possibly the biggest ever energy efficiency improvement for a building(s) of its age:
“This retrofit is a very unorthodox option that isn’t for everybody”, says Ryan Bezuidenhout. “Essentially, we should be all about selling tee times to golfers and hotel rooms – but when I was appointed here almost three years ago, I had to take a long, hard and holistic view about how we could make our business more resilient and sustainable. At the end of the day, we’re an SME where every penny counts, so I analysed all of our cost centres to see where we could make the most impact for the quickest possible win. Adding more hotel rooms would seem an obvious option, but it was clear to see that we needed to use our natural resources and free ourselves from the sky-rocketing bills of the utility companies. I’m all for protecting our planet, but let’s be totally honest here. Going green was a welcome bi-product of what was a very necessary commercial decision”.
The redesign by Geyser Thermal Energy has included a new Building Management System. The Oxfordshire already had one for the hotel and a separate unit for the main building. Manual overrides had long since become the modus operandi, so getting the now three systems to work together has been one of the most challenging aspects of the retrofit.
“It’s meant being very patient”, continues Bezuidenhout, “but instead of us al having to physically check up on various rooms in the buildings, at the click of a mouse I can now see on a browser how all the equipment is performing and tweak where necessary, so again, we’re in a much better place than we were before. When we first started seeing the heat meters running, it was magic”.
Tabling a proposal to a board of directors to dig up and cut through 625 yards of precious, almost sacred golf territory, requires exquisite timing, but Bezuidenhout – an undoubted disrupter, presented his case with aplomb - sharing a firm belief with Geyser Energy that despite long-held business opinions about the built environment, it is possible to harness natural resources to significantly reduce energy, which then saves and prolongs the lifetime of older buildings.
A few innocent buoys on the largest of The Oxfordshire’s four lakes is now the only hint to a golfer that something might be going on, as the water is now used for two 2000-litre thermal heating and cooling stores in the upgraded plant room, which also now contains a cylinder for the Next Scalestop water treatment system.
Lolli Olafsson from Geyser said: “We are extremely proud of what is being achieved at The Oxfordshire, where the heating is now switched on all the time, but with set-back temperatures of 16 to 17 degrees. Yet, the venue’s heating and cooling demand isn’t just some minor change of 10 to 15 points; it’s a whopping 93 percent less than what it used to be! Ryan has to take huge credit for paving the way in showing what a business can achieve with a retrofit.”
He added: “Older buildings can be notorious for being expensive to operate and difficult to upgrade to modern standards, hence such a focus on technology for new-build. Solutions for the millions of older buildings in the world usually tend to be extremely expensive or very limited to smaller components with little real effect, so almost all them remain trapped as prisoners of soaring energy costs. The solution at The Oxfordshire required a deep understanding of system integration. Ryan set the target very high, to reduce energy costs and increase profits by 30 percent – and despite plenty of obstacles, there has been a willingness, enthusiasm and vision from both parties achieve sustainable long-term goals”.
Ryan Bezuidenhout continued: “There is still more for us to do, including better, more energy efficient lighting. And as well as fitting more economical taps and showerheads, there are several options we are exploring.
“We have the peace of mind of being paid every quarter for the next twenty years through the RHI. Seeing all of this join up is very special. It proves that you don’t have to start all over again from scratch. For our buildings here which are close to 30 years old, this is a giant leap forward in energy efficiency, which very much protects the future of our business.”
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