Building a Better Supply Chain for the Black Country Low Carbon Economy

The Built Environment Climate Change Innovations (BECCI) project is part funded under the ERDF programme and is delivered by the University of Wolverhampton. The project helps to reduce carbon emissions by supporting SMEs to develop and implement their low-carbon innovations within residential housing and commercial buildings.

The Challenge Facing UK Housing Sector

  • The average household spends £1,200 per annum on energy
  • UK homes consume 29% of all energy
  • Space heating accounts for 62% of housing costs
  • In the West Midlands there are 320,000 households in fuel poverty
  • According to a 2014 housing study there are 44% of home occupiers living in the UK with either draught, condensation or mould problems
  • Around 80% of homes we live in today will still be in use in 2050

A dedicated project team, supplemented by academic and research expertise, is on hand to support businesses from within the Black Country LEP area.

BECCI offers services including access to research and development facilities to support product development and supply chain development.

A key facet of this is the appointment of a dedicated researcher within the BECCI team to work with the local company on improving their knowledge of energy efficiency low carbon products. In some cases taking the clients’ product and rigorously evaluating it against the market. This testing and evaluation helps the local businesses position their products in the marketplace and improve its functionality in a competitive arena.

Ecolec – Wolverhampton based radiant heating manufacturer – A local example of this was the testing and evaluation of radiant heating systems we completed on behalf of Wolverhampton based SME Ecolec. We were able to advise how the shape, curvature and finishes of these products influenced their operational effectiveness.

Ecolec Managing Director Chandru Ray advised, “Working with the BECCI team at the University of Wolverhampton gave us a useful insight into the comparative performance of our different products. Our clients look for a heating system for the healthcare and dementia markets. With this additional knowledge we can provide them with a fuller consideration of the benefits of their selection.”

All useful information for the local SME Ecolec and part of his new product development activities.

Neil and Gabrielle testing a Radiant Panel Heater

 

Our work with Housing Associations

Glenn Barrowman pictured with Alasdair Woodbridge from Heat Genius a local SME

The BECCI team has developed an excellent relationship with local social housing landlords creating opportunities for Black Country SMEs to test their products in controlled environments and provides an excellent route to market – importantly at scale! It permits the testing of products as they enter the marketplace and for them to be tailored to the requirements of a social housing context.

Rather excitingly BECCI is currently undertaking pilot tests with Wolverhampton Homes and whg in the area of smart heating control systems. In this case the BECCI team has engaged with the local supply chain to ensure they are able to embrace these new low carbon products within their operational activities.

Smart Heating Controls Pilot with Wolverhampton Homes

One of the first SME’s supported, Mr. Electric, worked with the University of Wolverhampton and Wolverhampton Homes on the trial of a new smart heating system from Heat Genius. This is designed to help homeowners reduce their energy consumption and bills by only heating the rooms that are being used. Mr. Electric Wolverhampton is one of twelve electrical businesses involved in the six month trial installing and monitoring intelligent heating system into the Wolverhampton Housing Association homes. The Heat Genius smart controls system predicts and adapts to a household’s energy usage by using a smart thermostat to heat only the parts of the home that are being used. The system automatically adjusts the heating schedules for each room, ensuring it’s warm when you arrive, but not wasting heat when you’re out. It even turns radiators off when a window is open, or when it’s a sunny day.

As a result of the BECCI intervention, Mr. Electric is now able to install the system into all properties where the building has gas central heating, an internet connection and a smartphone / laptop. The system comprises a Heat Genius controller that plugs into your internet router, a boiler controller and a portable wireless thermostat that can be moved from room to room. By being fully wireless, the user can control and monitor the system remotely via a smart device or web browser to identify where savings can be made, as well as seeing which rooms are warmer or colder than they need to be.

Rajiv Dhanjal, Business Development Officer at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “With the product being local to the West Midlands, we only wanted to work with local heating installers, who were not only reputable, but also demonstrated innovative expertise in eco heating solutions.”

Rajiv Dhanjal with local SME, Mr Electric and Alvina Ali of Wolverhampton Homes

Darren Barley, Mr. Electric Wolverhampton, added: ” Smart heating systems are playing an important role in our homes now as more people stay in control of their energy bills. The Genius Hub is a zoned home heating control system that can be a truly “fit and forget” solution, as it learns when you use each room and automatically cuts energy consumption without impacting on your comfort. The fact that the Hub is wireless means it is really easy to install – you don’t need fancy wiring or the walls knocked about, just the Genius Hub and valves on the radiators to get this new level of flexibility which no other system can offer. We hope to continue to build our relationship with the University of Wolverhampton and Wolverhampton Homes.”

Find out more about the BECCI project, including the latest news and eligibility criteria, at: www. wlv.ac.uk/becci E: becci@wlv.ac.uk T: 01902 321028

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