By Mark Conroy
Based in Drogheda, the Monasterboice Inn had a bit of problem. They wanted to extend their premises but also understood the increased energy costs and impact on the climate that can come with expansion.
Being aware of this, they sought support from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). With the SEAI’s assistance, The Monasterboice was able to reduce energy costs while extending their establishment by 25 per cent – thanks to the body’s EXEED (Excellence in Energy Efficient Design) certification programme. EXEED puts energy management at the forefront of design and aims to influence and deliver the best new practices in cost-effective construction. The Inn constructed a new conference centre extension and dramatically upgraded the energy efficiency of their premises. This reduction in both energy consumption and operational costs will last for the building’s lifetime.
The significant renovation project was led by owner Roseanne Donegan and the hotel’s general manager Karl Murphy. After a recommendation from heating company Euroteach, the two decided that a design-led approach was the best way forward. Lowering fossil fuel use was as much a priority as lowering costs. Donegan was extremely mindful of the potential environmental consequences of the project and was eager to mitigate any impact on the climate. “The biggest problem with climate change is that everybody thinks somebody else is going to solve it,” she explained. “We all need to live and do business responsibly. If everybody does something, no matter how small, it will encourage others to do likewise and then maybe tipping point could be avoided. Certainly, at this point, doing nothing is not an option. It also makes commercial sense.”
The initial challenge was to get all of the design team on board. Their EXEED consultant was key in this. He held meetings with all involved before the build, ensuring that they understood the concept of a design-led approach. The new design manages energy use in a number of ways. High-grade insulation and triple-A glazed windows may have meant a higher building cost, but they will prove much cheaper in the long run. The old gas boilers were replaced with heat pumps which take moisture from the atmosphere and convert it to heat using very little electricity. These pumps also capture the hot air from the extractor fans and use it to heat water, an energy source that was previously wasted. Both systems work in tandem, using their own intelligence to choose the most efficient source on the day, depending on the climate and the building’s demand.
Donegan was extremely satisfied with the support she received from the SEAI and has been empowered by the experience to not rest on her laurels. “We have seen the results of a design-led approach and want to continue improving the energy performance and environmental credentials of our building,” she noted.
The EXEED grant scheme provides support of up to €500,000 per year per project. The scheme is available to all organisations, both in the public and private sectors, looking to invest in an energy project.
“Last year, SEAI invested €1.6 million in EXEED projects ranging from educational facilities to pharmaceutical companies to public buildings,” said Jim Gannon, CEO of SEAI. “Projects that consider energy performance and energy management at the design stage can save up to 30 per cent in energy use and typically save on capital expenditure for new investments.”
For more information, visit seai.ie.