Colchester Borough Council: Retrofit of Council Headquarters

Rowan House, the Council’s office headquarters, is undergoing a holistic transformation to be more sustainable post COVID-19. Office space is being rationalised and rented to partners, the building is being retrofitted with low carbon heating and ventilation systems and the travel plan is being revised to promote sustainable travel to work and for meetings.

The challenge

Decarbonising the building alongside other changes to ensure maximum reductions in emissions are produced is a challenge. The changes to the building required for the new heating system are also costly and ideally needed external funding to help with delivery. 

The benefits from retrofitting and transforming the building are numerous; improved staff wellbeing (from better work environment and active travel to work), local green jobs produced, reduced emissions (from building and travel to work).

The solution

Using £528,250 of funding from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, Rowan House is being retrofitted with an air source heat pump, mechanical ventilation and heat recovery, building management system, LED lighting and additional roof insulation. These measures will increase the energy efficiency of the building to lower electricity usage and will support the introduction of the air source heat pump. 

On top of this, the Council is rationalising office space and is renting these out to partners as a way to generate revenue and use the office space more efficiently post COVID-19. 

Additionally, the Council’s travel plan is being revised to provide more options for staff to travel to work sustainably. Electric vehicle charge points are being installed for new electric vehicles, eCargo and electric bikes are available for staff to use for travelling to work and/or meetings, and electric vehicles will also be used by the fleet team. Discounts are available for using public transport to get to work.  

It is hoped that the holistic transformation will be complete by early 2022 and will make Rowan House a flagship building for sustainability in Colchester.

The impact

The decarbonisation of the office building is projected to reduce emissions by 139 tonnes of CO2e and save £58,000 annually. Initial savings are expected from other changes to the building and staff practices (fewer staff working in the building, more sustainable travel to work). 

The project will help to improve staff wellbeing through a more energy efficient office environment and active travel to work. The project can also highlight to other organisations in the borough what is possible in terms of transforming buildings to be more sustainable.

Lessons learned

Considering the retrofit of the building alongside changes to staff working practices was key, as this may help to design approaches to providing energy to the building in different ways.