Client - University of Cumbria


Provision of campus master planning, detailed feasibility studies and detailed design leading to the successful implementation and operation of a 300kW Biomass district heating installation feeding 8 university halls of residence blocks.

Client Requirements

The University of Cumbria provides undergraduate and postgraduate courses for over 8,790 students across 6 campuses in Cumbria, Lancashire and London.

The University of Cumbria were looking to develop a master plan approach to the development of their Penrith campus. This campus houses the National School of Forestry and therefore a sustainable and energy efficient strategy was highly desired.

The University wished to understand sustainable energy master planning options that could be incorporated within their medium and long-term plans.


BSSEC were initially appointed to provide a sustainable energy masterplan strategic review of the campus and its development aspirations. BSSEC visited site and met with key stakeholders and learnt of development intentions and aspirations in terms of future buildings, maintenance projects and demolitions. A full technical site audit was conducted of the full campus infrastructure from a utility (electricity and heating oil) and heating plant provision including a full condition survey of M&E installations within buildings. Options were appraised by BSSEC and a recommendation given to the most suitable sustainable energy strategy that the University should take. The recommendation was to develop a biomass district heating system which was powered from the forestry schools farmed willow. This proposal was fully costed and details of savings and benefits given along with a commercial risk assessment. The University accepted these proposals and sought funding.

BSSEC were then later appointed to develop a feasibility system of the proposed district heating system where an outline design was developed. This included plant room location, heating mains routes, indicative plant and pipe sizing and a detailed cost estimate along with savings projections.

Following this stage, the University appointed BSSEC to provide design services to the University to support the implementation of this project by the Universities Estates team. This included final sizing and design reviews with the client.

The final stage of the project was to provide site surveys during construction to assess build quality and compliance to the design standards set. A post completion review and energy savings verification and assessment phase followed to determine final project costs and savings achieved.


A 300kW biomass district heating system was implemented that serves 8 student residences blocks.

The system comprised external wood storage, indoor chipping facility, wood store area, rotating arm agitator and auger feed to the biomass boiler system. The energy center housed a 300kW biomass boiler with heat accumulator, pumps and controls. A system of buried district heating pipework fed the space heating and domestic hot water requirements in 8 student blocks.

The project costs were £600,000 (with £228,000 provided from a Salix Finance Loan), the project generated fiscal savings of £80, and 450 tonnes CO2 per annum yielding a 7.5-year payback.

The project provided a 16% carbon reduction for the entire estate – whilst the biomass district heating system was designed to be connected to future buildings and provide additional savings.

“As far as I am aware our students will be the first in the UK to have their homes heated by carbon neutral energy crops generated by their own university estate”

Garry Sharples, Environmental Sustainability Coordinator, University of Cumbria

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