Energy Assessments

Each of Birmingham’s 720 places of worship has its own challenges in terms of reducing heat losses and fuel bills.  The type of building, size, nature of usage, financial resources and support from wider faith community all impact of undertaking energy assessments and acting on the recommendations.   

Around 80% of Birmingham’s places of worship are buildings that are recognisable as synagogues, churches, mosques, temples and gurdwaras.   Some have been built in the past ten years, others are hundreds of years old.  Faith groups also worship in  

Through Ecobirmingham, 14 whole building energy assessments are being undertaken Phil Beardmore as part of Project 4F for a range of different faith building types and uses. 

Heat losses from a typical faith building

For a typical church, two thirds of the heat loss is through the fabric of the building – walls, roof, floors and windows.

The energy hierarchy underlies each faith building energy assessment.  This involves first identifying how to use less energy, then using energy efficiently and only finally obtaining the energy needed from low carbon sources.

Carrying out an assessment

Undertaking an in-depth energy assessment starts with a careful examination of a recent full year’s energy bills to identify the amount and cost of energy being used.  

Smart meter data should be used if it is available.  If you have smart meters then it should be possible to download the data as a spreadsheet.  This also helps to identify patterns of usage at various times of the day and night, and over the course of a year. 

Thermal imaging photographs are also taken to identify where the greatest amounts heat are leaking from the building through structure and also internal heat losses through uninsulated heat distribution pipes or ductwork. 

The space heating system is examined to identify how heat is produced and how the system is controlled. In most cases, substantial savings can be made by better use of existing heating and hot water controls, including heating system output temperatures; timer settings; thermostatic settings.  This will also be done for air conditioning and cooling systems if they are present. 

The types of lighting used are identified and how lights are turned on and off. 

A full visual inspection of the fabric of the building is undertaken to understand where and why heat losses are occurring through the building fabric, and also through thermal bridges and cold air infiltration.

An assessment will also be made of ventilation systems and whether they are adequate or need improving. 

An outline assessment of the suitability of renewable energy systems such as heat pumps; solar electricity; solar thermal will also be undertaken if appropriate. 

When the survey has been completed a report is prepared with key recommended actions and the energy saving effectiveness, financial return and potential improvements in comfort for each.  This will also include a risk assessment of the potential risks associated with various energy saving and renewable energy measures, and how to manage them. 

Green Lane Masjid case study

Green Lane Masjid took up the offer of a whole building energy assessment through Project 4F.

Green Lane Masjid occupies a group of buildings that was originally a swimming baths and library, built in the early 20th century.  It is a very busy community centre as well as a mosque, with a vaccination centre, funeral home, madrassa, and home to many community initiatives both locally and internationally.

This is a complex building with at least 12 different heating zones.  Some energy saving improvements have been made recently, including some wall insulation, and LED lighting.  There have also been measures to manage water consumption due to activities such as Wudu and catering.  The building still has substantial energy waste and greenhouse gas emissions due to the following factors:

  • Decorative terracotta solid brick walls – parts of which are insulated internally but much of which are still uninsulated;
  • Various areas of flat and pitched roof with only partial insulation;
  • Heat loss through some of the glazing in the building
  • Reliance on gas for space and water heating
  • Limited heating controls in some areas of the building

The Project 4F faith building energy assessment made a number of recommendations for action, including:

  • Improved insulation to walls and flat roof areas
  • Reviewing the boiler temperatures
  • Upgrading to smart heating controls
  • Using both solar thermal and solar electricity
  • Improving ventilation
  • Reducing overheating through shading, window control, and ventilation, in order to reduce the need for air conditioning
  • Recommending which areas of glazing are a priority for upgrading.

Shree Ram Mandir case study

Shree Ram Mandir occupies a building that was originally a cinema, built between the wars.  It is now a vibrant Hindu temple and community centre.  Although some activities on site have not been possible during Covid, the centre has played a valuable role in supporting the local community.

A number of energy efficiency works have already been carried out on the building, including a false insulated ceiling to mitigate heat loss; and LED lighting in some parts of the building.  Nevertheless, the building is still quite wasteful of energy, and has high greenhouse gas emissions, due to the following factors:

  • Uninsulated solid walls
  • Some areas of uninsulated flat roofs
  • Uninsulated solid floors
  • The present heating system means that heat ends up near the high ceiling, leaving cold spots nearer the floor
  • Non-LED lighting in some areas of the building

The Project 4F faith building energy assessment made a number of recommendations for action, including:

  • Insulating stud walls
  • Extending the existing raised floor, with insulation
  • Installing under-floor heating beneath the raised floor
  • Replacing non-LED lighting with LEDs
  • Improving ventilation
  • Relocation of fridges/freezers to unheated areas; turning off fridges/freezers that are temporarily empty; regular defrosting of freezers.
  • Solar electricity is likely to be a viable option for this building; it has high demand for artificial lighting during daylight hours