Volunteer blog: Sustainable actions speak louder than words
Blogging science to life
Tue 12 June 2012, Written by: Sarah
On my previous visits to At-Bristol, I’ve always wondered what the huge black cylinder is in the far corner of the exhibition floor, looming over the exhibitions like a giant statue or battery. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that it is, in fact, exactly that – a battery. It’s a eutectic, or phase change, tank containing thousands of purple plastic balls that change from solid to liquid and back again at certain temperatures, storing and releasing energy as they do so and heating and cooling the At-Bristol building.
This is just one of the many things I learned whilst on a tour of the building at At-Bristol, delving deep in to the murky maze of pipes that make up At-Bristol’s heating and cooling systems and learning about how At-Bristol has become a beacon of sustainability. After the tour had finished, I realised something had been niggling at me – their building system has helped them to achieve a level of sustainability through energy saving methods that are still unique today. Why has no other building in Bristol attempted to do the same?
It seems that when it comes to making a building sustainable, At-Bristol has the answer. But in order to make the whole city sustainable, a universal solution may not be the best. Chris Dunford, At-Bristol’s Sustainability Officer, makes a good point – “our building runs on night-time surplus electricity; if all the other buildings in the area started to do the same, then the electricity would no longer be surplus.” At-Bristol’s building system was also installed at the resurrection of a derelict building, and most buildings and businesses would have to work with the building system they already have. It would be almost impossible to tear down a building and start from scratch, installing the complex network of machinery and pipes required to run a building on electricity alone. It’s about choosing the most sensible solution for individual buildings to improve their sustainability.
Chris’ building systems tour being enjoyed by staff and volunteers now also forms part of the workshop “Sustainability on all scales”
But all is not lost - the team at At-Bristol is determined to get everyone else on board with sustainability, through exhibitions, tours and workshops. The new exhibition, Our World – no more waste (supported by the SITA Trust), demonstrating how in the natural world nothing is wasted. The exhibits will use real time data to show climate change on an interactive globe, and include a timeline that leaves the building and snakes out on to Anchor Square. The interactive timeline will become a 3-D model of a valley, showing the evolution of life on Earth and will show creatures reacting to visitors and the environment. The brand new workshop “Sustainability on all scales’ is also getting schools to think sustainably, giving Key Stage 4 students the opportunity to explore the building systems in detail and design engineering solutions around sustainability issues.
At-Bristol is reminding us that it’s not just about what their building can do, and encouraging businesses to change their attitudes as well as their boilers. It’s about getting everyone involved in making smaller changes, so that we can have a positive impact on the environment as a community.
Thanks Sarah for that great blog!
On 12 and 14 June, we're hosting behind the scenes tours of our super green building as part of Bristol's Big Green Week. Book your tickets and join us!
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