Active Building Centre’s mission to be boosted within Energy Systems Catapult

Energy Systems Catapult is the new home for key parts of the Active Building Centre (ABC) – accelerating efforts to decarbonise the built environment.

The ABC was set-up in 2019, under the Government’s Transforming Construction Challenge. With the initial R&D funding phase now complete, integration with the Catapult will boost the deployment phase as we scale up active building technologies in the UK.

Since inception four years ago, ABC has partnered in delivering over 100 real world schemes with a value of around £300m, to catalyse the uptake of active buildings. Ranging from capital projects with Welsh Government to commercial buildings and housing developments with local authorities.

The move to Energy Systems Catapult will accelerate the work of ABC to transform construction with lower-carbon buildings using active energy principles – and aligns with a key Catapult focus in driving innovation to decarbonise energy systems across homes, buildings and sites.

“Energy Systems Catapult exists to accelerate innovation and transform the UK energy system towards Net Zero,” said Energy Systems Catapult CEO, Guy Newey.

“And perhaps the hardest challenge we face is how to decarbonise buildings.

“So we are excited to bring expertise, insights and experience from the Active Building Centre into the Catapult fold – boosting our efforts to drive world-leading Net Zero innovation across buildings and sites.”

Key areas of focus over the next few years will include:

  • Building on the ABC Blueprint a guide to achieving net zero in the built environment particularly around applying active energy approaches in non-domestic building and sites (public sector estates and commercial sites, etc).
  • Supporting innovators to develop, test, and launch interoperable zero carbon energy solutions for both new and retrofitted homes.

The move will also maintain and build on the strong links that both ABC and Energy Systems Catapult have with Wales, including:

  • Key staff from ABC taking up similar roles within Energy Systems Catapult from March, including five Wales-based employees.
  • Building on the work ABC has done in Wales, including exploring the next phase of the Cross Hands East project in Carmarthenshire, which is building low-carbon offices and light industrial units powered by active building principles.
  • A range of long-term Catapult innovation projects in Wales, such as working to decarbonise buildings, sites and local areas in areas as diverse as the town of Bridgend and the UK’s largest energy port in Milford Haven.
  • The Catapult acting as technical advisor to the Welsh Government programme of rolling out Local Area Energy Planning across every local authority in the country.

What are Active Buildings?

Active Buildings are able to generate, efficiently manage, store, share and pass energy that is unused back into the grid.

It’s like seeing a building as a mini power station.

Active Buildings are designed to maximise both physical and psychological comfort for occupants whilst being energy efficient combined with using integrated technology and smart controls.

By reducing the demand of the building and installing local renewable energy generation, active buildings ‘free up’ energy to support the electrification of transport and heating as well as the wider energy networks.

ABC CEO, Dan Cook, said: “There is a real need to better link the buildings and energy sectors around innovation.

“The ABC team has built up great experience embedding active energy systems in buildings in real world projects over the past four years.

“Siting this expertise within Energy Systems Catapult for the future with its strength on data, modelling and working with energy network providers and innovators will help accelerate innovation and the delivery of cleaner, cheaper and greener buildings”.

In total, nine ABC team members will be move across to Energy Systems Catapult ­- bringing with them key expertise, data, insights, and project learnings – that will be applied to future work as the Catapult aims to help the UK achieve Net Zero by 2050.

The ABC Berkeley site will be retained by SGS College in Gloucestershire to support the green skills agenda, as part of a new Renewable Energy and Retrofit Training Centre at the Gloucestershire Science and Technology Park. This helps fill the gap highlighted by ABC, the Catapult and others, around skills and knowledge shortages hindering Net Zero efforts.

Kevin Hamblin, Group Chief Executive South Gloucestershire and Stroud College said: “SGS will utilise the three demonstrator buildings, renewable energy and low carbon technologies on the current site, as part of their enhanced educational offer around green technologies and skills.

“This will help to carry forward the part of ABC’s mission around skills and the supply chain. The new training centre, called Eco-Futures will deliver training capacity for the essential skills and knowledge needed to meet not only local carbon reduction targets but the wider role in delivering regional and national solutions to the climate crisis.”

SGS will make the Berkeley site available for future research by industry, Catapults and higher education bodies.

ABC RTO as an entity will cease to exist from the summer of 2023.

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