An exciting new venue to enhance the teaching and learning experience at Durham University


Zumtobel Group’s lighting brands Zumtobel and Thorn have supplied an energy efficient lighting scheme for Durham University’s new Teaching and Learning Centre at the Lower Mountjoy Building, a new £40 million construction that offers students the ideal space to study. Zumtobel and Thorn have supplied a wide range of luminaires for the project, both internally and externally, providing LED energy efficiency, an excellent working environment and improved colour rendition.

The Lower Mountjoy Building lies near to Durham City Centre conservation area. The Teaching and Learning Centre includes lecture theatres, classrooms, seminar rooms, catering facilities, an education laboratory, breakout spaces and student learning zones, with great amenities and top-of-the-range digital equipment. The building consists of 12 modular blocks and provides a transition between the modern university buildings nearby and the more traditional and classical architecture of the adjacent buildings. Up to 1,600 students can be taught at the centre, which has spaces for individual and collaborative study, nearly 200 computer laboratory spaces and an experimental education laboratory to trial new learning methods.


Many of the areas have concrete ceilings so the lighting had to integrate with acoustic rafts. Zumtobel’s LINCOR was selected as the best lighting solution. LINCOR pendant LED luminaires are suspended from the concrete ceilings to deliver high visual comfort from superior direct/indirect illumination with no reflected glare. More importantly, thanks to the central part from which no light is emitted downwards, the luminaire meets the highest demands regarding contrast rendition, even when placed directly above the workstation. This avoids annoying reflections on glossy surfaces and is therefore ideally suited for working on tablet devices and computers.

Zumtobel’s SUPERSYSTEM II multifunctional LED modules for low voltage track have been utilised in the restaurant/dining area and track mounted DISCUS spotlights in the main atrium. This SUPERSYSTEM II slim-profile LED spotlight track system for low-voltage lighting applications, is 1 inch wide and provides a full range of lighting options for general, accent, direct, indirect, and wall-washing applications in lumen packages up to 1,250 lumens. DISCUS is a state-of-the-art spotlight system, its delicate but robust design is creatively inspired by cutting-edge LED technology: a flat, minimalist shape with an unmistakable appearance – characterised by the radial fins of the passive heatsink and its illuminated replaceable optic.

The brief for the offices required recessed luminaires with good cylindrical and horizontal illumination that could be installed in various ceiling types, whilst more aesthetically pleasing than a basic flat panel. Thorn’s IQ Wave provided the ideal solution to support comfort, alertness and happiness by taking into consideration the variety of different functions, forms of communication and the physical nature of modern learning spaces. The ideal classroom light distribution is achieved with the help of a special reflector and ensures perfect light for various tasks, the general space and the different forms of personal communication between teachers and pupils. IQ Wave achieves a unified glare rating of <19, in line with the EN 12464 standard on workplace lighting.

Thorn’s Chalice, with a high efficacy of 106lm/W for low energy consumption and less than 100mm in height, illuminates the circulation areas.

Thorn’s Duoproof, a durable high bay luminaire offering performance, high-tech appearance and flexibility, illuminates the kitchen and Aquaforce Pro is installed throughout the plant areas.

The exterior of the facility had to be lit sympathetically to deal with the ever-changing landscape and Thorn’s Piazza LED was the perfect solution for providing accent illumination with a touch of style for the perimeter. As a versatile lighting system for decorative area and path lighting, the extensive Urban Deco family from Thorn, which includes post, pendant lighting and bollard luminaires, illuminates the pathway entrance bollards and the 3 – 5 metre columns for the pathways, along with recessed LINN around the edge of the footpath close to the building.

With a diverse range of world-class environments, the Lower Mountjoy Centre is an exciting new venue to enhance the teaching and learning experience at Durham University, the efficiency of the chosen luminaires helped the new facility to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of A.

So, far the reaction from students has been really positive.

For more information on Zumtobel please visit the website and for Thorn

SAV Systems is proud to announce that the AirMaster AM 1000 has been awarded Passivhaus Component certification in conjunction with their Danish partner, Airmaster A/S. The flagship AM 1000 is the first decentralised, duct free, mechanical ventilation unit with heat recovery (MVHR) on the market to be awarded the certification. This enables the AirMaster AM 1000 to be used in Passivhaus school buildings.

Our time working with the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) inspired SAV Systems to undertake Passivhaus certification. CEC has set ambitious targets to achieve Net Zero by 2035, leading the council to apply passive house design principles to all their new schools. The core philosophy of passive house design is to create a comfortable and energy efficient building with minimal energy wastage. Alongside the need for improved energy efficiency, Passivhaus also offers the opportunity to create more comfortable learning environments for students, combatting the Scottish climate.

Ventilation plays a crucial part in two requirements of passive house standards: air tightness and space heating demand. Openings in buildings, such as windows and porous building materials can allow heat to escape, wasting the energy generated by the building. Consequently, Passivhaus buildings have high airtightness and low heat loss. However, in increasing the airtightness of a building to conserve energy, indoor air quality can suffer. Therefore, a mechanical ventilation solution is required to manage indoor air quality without wasting energy.

Adopting AirMaster as a school’s ventilation strategy is an effective choice for designing comfortable classrooms. Due to the decentralised design of AirMasters, the units can be installed easily in a range of different classrooms, making use of duct free air distribution. A typical classroom installation requires one AirMaster AM 1000 per room with intake and exhaust connection to outside. The AM 1000 can recover up to 90% of the room’s heat using an aluminium heat exchanger, reducing the building’s heat load and heat loss.

The certification of the AM 1000 makes available an innovative ventilation strategy that can improve indoor air quality without sacrificing thermal comfort. Not only is this certification exciting for SAV Systems, but it is also exciting for decentralised mechanical MVHR as a ventilation strategy. With growing pressure on buildings to become energy efficient and comfortable, decentralised MVHR like AirMaster should play a vital role in the solution.



Energys Group LED upgrade at Leytonstone School is set to deliver £8.7K annual savings

Leytonstone School is on track to significantly reduce its annual energy use following the final part of its LED lighting upgrade – as financed by the London Borough of Waltham Forest’s Salix Fund. The project is estimated to achieve annual savings in the region of £8,700 against a project cost of £69,639. This is estimated to lead to carbon reduction savings of 24.61 tonnes of CO2/pa with a lifetime carbon savings of 615 tonnes. Return on investment is predicted to be within 7.3 years.

 Leytonstone School has been in its current location in the London Borough of Waltham Forest for over a century. Today, more than 800 students aged between 11-16  attend the school, which has been rated as Good  by OFSTED since 2016.


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As one would expect, since Leytonstone School first opened, there has been ongoing development of the site. The latest refurbishment took place just four years ago when the lighting in the main building was upgraded to LED.

However, the lighting in the Practical block and Music and Drama building was not upgraded at that time. As such Sean Goffin, Site Manager at the school, became increasingly concerned about the maintenance costs and levels of lighting failures, particularly relating to the emergency lighting.  When he contacted Nimish Shah, Energy Manager at London Borough of Waltham Forest, he was confident that they would be keen to assist.


Salix funded solution 

The London Borough of Waltham Forest supports schools in the Borough to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon emissions through its Salix Fund.  Waltham Forest match-funds the Salix grant to provide loans to schools within the borough. As Nimish Shah explains; “We loan funds to schools to invest in energy efficiency projects and they repay us as those savings are realised. We have been running this fund for the past decade and so far we have recycled it 2.5 times.”

With more than 50 maintained schools within the Borough, the team at Waltham Forest are keen to target schools with the highest expenditure on energy projects. This latest project for Leytonstone School showed significant scope to make further savings – and as such the Borough’s energy team agreed it was a project to proceed with.


Minimum disruption, maximum savings

Raj Gunasekaren, Business Development Manager at Energys Group proposed a solution to which could be delivered with minimum disruption. Self-learning Intelligent Wireless Control LED lights were installed, which use iDim Active+ sensor technology.  This is an intelligent wireless automatic control which provides daylight harvesting and presence detection without need for re-wiring or modification to existing circuits.

Energys Group estimated that the project would take ten days to complete and, in order to minimise disruption to the school timetable, the project was scheduled for the Summer half-term holiday.  In the event, the majority of the project was completed during the half-term week and the team finished off the project by working a couple of early mornings and late evenings.


Improved quality of light

The school’s Site Manager Sean Goffin was very pleased with the way in which Energy Group delivered this project; “The work was completed on time and with minimum disruption to the school day and teachers have already commented on the improvement in the quality of the lighting, which is an excellent outcome.”

Sean Goffin is delighted with the commitment the Energys Group team has made to following up and tweaking the new system; “Nothing has been too much trouble for them and, whilst it is still early days in terms of seeing the energy savings coming through, I am already noticing a reduction in the maintenance time for the lighting in these two buildings.”

Raj Gunasekaran, Business Development Manager at Energys Group says; “We are delighted to install our energy efficient, state of the art LED technology at Leytonstone School. Staff and students alike will now benefit from all the known benefits of LED lighting, including reduced eyestrain and improved alertness  – and the school budget benefits too!”

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Retrofitting Remeha high-efficiency replacement boilers has proved a highly effective and efficient solution to achieving improved heating performance at Thomas More Catholic School in Purley.

For the last two decades, the listed Venetian Gothic building that houses the school had relied on two dated cast-iron pressure jet boilers for its heating. Heating is a critical service in all buildings, but particularly in schools as if the system fails, the building could face closure. Furthermore, an effective and efficient heating system optimises the learning environment, maximising comfort levels while minimising energy demand for lower running costs and emissions.

So when the old boiler plant at Thomas More Catholic School began to fail, surveyors Faithorn Farrell Timms LLP (FFT) were swift to act, recommending an immediate boiler replacement. Due to the listed status of the building, which dates back to 1863, this cost-effective, non-disruptive solution was the most viable option to achieving high-performance heating.

FFT appointed Cowley Group to carry out the boiler replacement as they had the experience of working on similar projects.

Cowley Group’s Managing Director Anthony Gurr recommended installing two high-efficiency Remeha Gas 610 Eco Pro 13-section replacement boilers to meet the heat demand and site requirements.

Anthony Gurr said: “We always specify Remeha where we can as we find they have the best range of boilers for almost every application. What’s more, they are the most reliable of the boiler brands we have installed.”

Given the heritage considerations, the project was not without its challenges, as FFT’s Project Manager Abigail Blumzon explained:

“The first obstacle we faced was access, as the primary entrance to the basement-level plantroom is via a very narrow and fragile Victorian cast iron staircase.

“The flueing arrangements for the new condensing boilers were similarly more complex than would otherwise be the case, due to the listed nature of the building.

“Added to this was the need to avoid any disruption either to the service or the building, as this emergency boiler replacement needed to take place during term time. This meant ensuring that the heating service remained uninterrupted throughout the changeover, while maintaining a safe environment for the students and minimising noise and disturbance.”

It was no small feat for Cowley Group. In order to overcome the access constraints, the old boilers had to be broken down and craned out of the basement through a lightwell. The new Remeha boilers then had to enter the plantroom through the same space.

Anthony commented: “A key benefit of the Remeha boilers on this project is their weight as we were able to lift them down into the plantroom. They were also narrow enough to fit through the doorways.”

Following his recommendation, a plate heat exchanger was applied to hydraulically separate the two circuits. This prevents any debris or contaminated water entering the new boilers, increasing their longevity and durability while optimising their operational performance and the overall efficiency of the system.

In addition to cordoning off the ‘hot works’ zone so that the school remained a safe environment for its students, Cowley Group needed to devise a suitable flueing arrangement for the new condensing boilers.

Anthony explained: “The school building has a 27-metre-high chimney, listed and built in 1878, so the most appropriate solution was to reline it and drop the flue down inside the lining tube. This was carried out by Flue Stax Ltd. The scaffolders did a good job but, given the height, it was quite an exacting task – although one that we managed to complete successfully.”

“The whole project went very smoothly,” confirmed Abigail. “Given the hurdles which the team had to overcome, the excellent result is a testament to everyone who worked on the project.”

With the new Remeha boilers now fully operational, the students and staff at Thomas More Catholic School are benefitting from higher comfort levels throughout the building. The new boilers will also bring financial and environmental benefits, thanks to their high efficiencies and low Class 6 NOx emission levels. Energy usage, heating costs and associated emissions will all be reduced, while the improved reliability will further reduce maintenance costs in the months ahead.

The school is delighted with the installation which was carried out smoothly and to schedule.

Robin Caunt, Site Premises Manager at Thomas More Catholic School, said:

“Excellent project management from start to finish by all those involved. The boiler room has been improved with better lighting, painted floor and incredibly quiet boilers.”

The Remeha Gas 310/610 Eco Pro high efficiency condensing boiler series is specially designed for maximum versatility and energy efficiency. Available in five to ten sections, its compact design means it fits through any standard doorway. For restricted or awkward access, it can be disassembled into parts, reducing labour and time costs.


On June 10th, the government is set to publish its final proposals for the long-awaited Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). By the end of the year qualifying suppliers with more than 150,000 customers will be legally required to offer terms of payment for the surplus power that new solar homes put on the grid. Smaller suppliers are also able to offer a Smart Export Guarantee on a voluntary basis. 

The STA wants to see a competitive market develop to purchase power from smart, solar homes. It will be watching the market very closely for developments and ranking all offers via its online Smart Export Guarantee league table, so that new solar households can easily understand which companies are making the best offers.

Currently only Octopus Energy, on a voluntary basis, has a tariff for solar exports, for which it is offering a fair market rate.

STA Director of Advocacy and New Markets Léonie Greene said; “We will be watching the market like a hawk to see if competitive offers come forward that properly value the power that smart solar homes can contribute to the decarbonising electricity grid. The net zero energy transition we need cannot happen without the active engagement of the public so it is vital that, as very small players, they are treated fairly in a very big system. It is a requirement under EU law to offer fair, market-rate payment for small-scale solar power exports and government has decided to leave this to a market that it does not trust to supply power at a fair price. 

Nevertheless we are hopeful that there are innovative electricity supply companies who understand the importance of incentivising homeowners who want to install solar, battery storage and EV charging as we move towards a smart energy system. Barriers still need to be resolved and it is incumbent on government to remove these to encourage as thriving and competitive a market as possible, including for aggregators.”

Innovative supplier Octopus Energy have already taken steps towards meeting the requirements of the SEG with the first truly ‘smart’ export tariff offer, which includes both a simple fixed payment for all surplus power exported to the grid at a fair market rate of 5.5p/kWh, and a ‘smart’ tariff, which will enable homes with solar and battery storage that can control when they export power to the grid to potentially benefit from even higher rates because they can export at ‘peak’ times when power is more expensive.

However, while this initial offering is positive, it does have its limits. In order to benefit from Octopus Energy’s offer, you also have to be a customer on the supply side. If other suppliers follow this format, there is a risk of consumers being saddled with opaque package deals that cloak the true economics of household power use and supply. Furthermore, this offer only applies to the domestic market. Since April 2019, small-scale commercial and community energy generators have been left with no route to market.

Details released on the SEG so far are scant, so the STA is not yet able to comment in depth, however, it is expected that MCS certification or the equivalent will be a requirement to qualify for a SEG, helping to safeguard high standards in the industry.

The announcement is expected to fall short of demands to mandate a minimum price following a vigorous lobbying effort including politicians and the public alike. MPs such as Antoinette Sandbach and Douglas Ross have been particularly vocal on the matter, as have campaign group 10:10 Climate Action. Should the market fail to provide and sustain fair offers there will be immediate pressure on Government to intervene.



In February, schoolchildren from around the globe went on strike to demand urgent action on climate change. It followed stark warnings within a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stating that unprecedented measures are required within the next 12 years to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial times – avoiding potentially catastrophic global impacts.


With the built environment estimated to account for around 40% of total UK carbon emissions1, improving the energy efficiency of our buildings must be viewed as a priority.

The Passivhaus Standard offers a proven model for minimising the energy usage of buildings via a fabric-first approach. By applying its principals with the precise design, improved predictability and outstanding thermal performance of structural insulated panels (SIPs), developers are now achieving Passivhaus Certification on projects of increasing scale and complexity.

Getting Certified

At its core, the Passivhaus Standard aims to allow the creation of buildings which require very little energy to heat or cool, whilst also providing a high level of comfort for occupants. To achieve this, it sets clear energy performance targets which a building must meet:

Primary energy demand ≤ 120 kWh/m2/yr

Space heating/cooling demand ≤ 15 kWh/m2/yr

Specific cooling load ≤ 10 W/m2

Passivhaus performance targets for cooler climate buildings

To put these figures in context, the maximum space heating demand for a Passivhaus building is around 10% of that of an average home (estimated to be 140 kWh/m2/yr 2). As such, whilst these criteria do not specifically address a building’s carbon emissions, in practice they should significantly limit emissions when compared with a property built to current Building Regulations/Standards.

To meet these criteria, all areas of the external fabric of the property typically need to be insulated to a U-value of 0.15 W/m2.K, or lower. It is also a requirement of Passivhaus that the building be fundamentally ‘thermal bridge free’. To achieve this, close attention to detailing is crucial when designing the building and installing the insulation to ensure that potential thermal bridges around openings and at junctions (especially the wall / floor) are properly addressed. In addition, air leakage rates must be no higher than 0.6 ach@50 Pa. This is typically achieved by installing an airtight layer, such as oriented strand board (OSB), and airtight tape, which is applied to seal all junctions.

High levels of airtightness within Passivhaus buildings necessitates good ventilation via means of a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system. MVHR systems extract the heat from outgoing stale air and transfer it to warm incoming fresh air, further reducing the heating demand and ensuring a fresh, comfortable environment within the home.

Whilst it is possible to attain Passivhaus certification with traditional construction methods, in many cases offsite construction approaches such as SIPs can provide a simpler, faster and more adaptable solution to meeting the demanding fabric requirements.


A typical SIP comprises an insulated core sandwiched between two layers of oriented strand board (OSB), with a jointing system that ensures excellent insulation continuity throughout the envelope, limiting repeating thermal bridging. The panels are precision cut to each project’s particular specifications in a production facility, including spaces for openings, such as windows and doors. This ensures an accurate fit, significantly reducing the need for onsite adjustments and waste. It also gives architects considerable freedom in determining the design for the property.

The panels offer excellent ‘out-of-the-box’ fabric performance with whole wall and roof U-values of 0.20 – 0.17 W/m2.K, or better. By assessing all junctions and openings within the building envelope, and carefully installing additional insulation, thermal bridges can be eliminated, and the U-values of all elements reduced to the required level.

The jointing arrangements inherent in SIPs can also support extremely airtight structures. Once an airtight membrane is fitted internally and tape is applied to junctions, the air leakage rate can be reduced to the 0.6 ach @ 50 Pa required by the Passivhaus Standard.

SIPs also provide a number of practical benefits. Their offsite production process supports greater predictability in scheduling, allowing project teams to accurately plan for panel deliveries, avoiding trade overlaps and maximising site efficiency.

The panels can be quickly installed by a small team of trained operatives with a dry construction process that is less dependent on weather conditions than other traditional approaches. When SIPs are used for both the walls and roof, the outer shell of domestic properties can often be erected in just two to three weeks. With the addition of a breather membrane to the panel exteriors, the construction is made weathertight — allowing internal fit-out to begin. The outer timber facing also provides a suitable substrate for a variety of cladding options including brick slips, render and timber cladding.

In Practice

One project to take advantage of the benefits SIPs provide is the Norwich Regeneration Company’s Rayne Park estate. The development includes a mix of private and affordable housing, with 112 of the 172 properties, earmarked for full Passivhaus Certification.

The Kingspan TEK Building System was chosen to form the envelope of many of the dwellings based on its technical specification and value offered through its offsite production process. The first phase of the development completed this March, with the Passivhaus units expected to have a heating demand of just 11 kWh/m2/yr and a primary energy requirement of 77 kWh/m2/yr.

Scalable Solution

With over 65,000 buildings now certified Passivhaus around the globe, the Standard provides a clear route to dramatically reducing the energy performance, and consequently carbon emissions, from our buildings. Offsite approaches such as SIPs provide the ideal delivery method for this standard, allowing the cost-effective construction of entire estates.


1 UK Green Building Council – Climate Change

2 Why Choose Passivhaus? Passivhaus Trust