Work to begin on Headington Campus project to reduce carbon emissions

16 November 2021

Concept design of the boreholes for the project

With the world’s attention focused on the outcomes of the COP26 summit, Oxford Brookes is introducing a major technological advancement to significantly reduce carbon use on the Headington Campus.

Planning permission has been granted for the project which will involve the installation of a Geo-Exchange Heating and Cooling System from next month which will displace the use of fossil fuels. It is estimated that the introduction of the new system will help to reduce carbon emissions from the Gipsy Lane site by approximately 20%.

The project, which has received Government funding, aligns with Oxford Brookes’ sustainability commitments to become net zero by 2040, and is in line with our Zero Carbon Oxford Charter pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions as a city by the same year.

First UK university to have an operational deep borehole system

The technology reduces the environmental impact of the existing heating and cooling system, and Oxford Brookes will become the first UK university with an operational deep borehole system. The concept involves the capture of waste energy from cooling, storing it in the earth for later use as heat. 

What will the project involve?

The system will consist of a heat pump to be installed within a pre-existing interior plant room, or energy centre. It will also involve an innovative new approach to carbon reduction utilising boreholes and inter-connecting flowlines that will be capped at the surface, with manhole covers. It will replace the use of fossil fuels and reduce energy consumption across both cooling and heating processes.

The number of boreholes required is fourteen, with a depth of approximately 220m. The drilling diameter for each borehole will be approximately 15-20cm. The boreholes will be located on the University’s access road parallel with Gipsy Lane next to the Sir Kenneth Wheare Hall building. The manhole covers will be a standard size, visible only at ground level, with access for maintenance and servicing.

When will the work start?

We currently expect that physical work will begin from Monday 20 December 2021, with external works proposed to be completed by the end of March 2022. As part of the preparations for this work, initial setup is expected to take place from the week commencing Monday 29 November and will involve the installation of a site office, drilling equipment, hoardings and signage to ensure safety on site.

Who is carrying out the work?

The work will be carried out by Black Mountain Developments on behalf of Oxford Brookes. Safety will remain the priority at all times and work is being planned to ensure minimal disruption over this period.

We anticipate that core work will take place between the hours of 7.30am and 6.30pm, Monday to Friday. There may occasionally be a need to work on Saturdays which would take place between 8am and 2pm.

We do expect there to be intermittent noise during the work but as part of the environmental assessment undertaken for the planning application, we have been assured that disruption to those living or working near to the site will be minimal. This is primarily due to the specialist equipment being used and mitigation measures we are taking such as the site hoardings which will help to reduce any noise impact.

Commencement of the works has been timed to avoid any disruption to the Semester 1 exam period. An assessment of any potential impact on Semester 2 teaching is currently taking place. Students will have their timetables published on 4 January.

A traffic management plan has also been produced to ensure safety for all road and pavement users. Staff based on site will be on hand to minimise traffic disruption as vehicles enter and leave the site. The current BROOKESbus stop on the access road parallel with Gipsy Lane will be moved to a temporary bus stop on Gipsy Lane itself while this work is taking place.

Bold actions to tackle the climate crisis

Jerry Woods, Director of Estates and Campus Services, commented: “We face a climate emergency and as a university are taking bold actions to play our part in tackling the challenges ahead of us.

“We have a strong commitment to sustainability and the environment at Oxford Brookes, so I am proud that we will be the first UK university to have a completed installation of this innovative deep borehole technology. It will have a huge impact on reducing our carbon footprint, taking us a step closer to achieving net zero emissions.”

Oxford Brookes is committed to a range of ambitious sustainability targets. Earlier this month the University declared a climate emergency and set out ambitious sustainability targets with an intention to become a net-zero organisation by 2040 alongside our commitment to the Zero Carbon Oxford Charter pledge.

Further information on Brookes’ sustainability activities can be found on the sustainability webpages.