Major energy savings from retrofit deliver new hope for older buildings


04 June 2021

Despite the stop-start trials and tribulations of the Covid-affected 2020 and 2021, the retrofit at The Oxfordshire Golf Hotel and Spa has already seen its thermal energy demand reduced by a massive 93 percent.

A ground-breaking project that flies in the face of ‘rip it up and start again’, the venue, built in 1994, now has an energy demand input of less than 100kWh, compared to its previous load requirement of 1,410 kWh.

The Oxfordshire’s General Manager, Ryan Bezuidenhout teamed up with Geyser Thermal Energy to use the natural resources on site; primarily connecting heat pumps to one of the venue’s four lakes.

Geyser’s founder, Lolli Olafsson, is keen to point out that what’s uniquely happening at The Oxfordshire is not all about numbers. Nonetheless, in what is possibly the biggest ever energy efficiency improvement for a building(s) of its age:

Oil use for the boilers has been reduced by 75%.

Replacing water softeners with Next Scale Stop has reduced water waste by 20% - and also means less brine is being discharged. Cleaner water also means pumps are now 15% more efficient from not having to pump solid particles.

New direct-drive fans in the air handling units (replacing old belt-driven units) are 20% more efficient. Chillers that required 250kw are now gone, with the new heat pumps able to provide cooling.

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“This retrofit is a very unorthodox option that isn’t for everybody”, says Ryan Bezuidenhout. “Essentially, we should be all about selling tee times to golfers and hotel rooms – but, I had to take a long, hard and holistic view about how we could make our business more resilient and sustainable.

At the end of the day, we’re an SME where every penny counts. So I analysed all of our cost centres to see where we could make the most impact for the quickest possible win. Adding more hotel rooms would seem an obvious option, but it was clear to see that we needed to use our natural resources and free ourselves from the sky-rocketing bills of the utility companies. I’m all for protecting our planet, but let’s be totally honest here. Going green was a welcome bi-product of what was a very necessary commercial decision”.

The redesign by Geyser Thermal Energy has included a new Building Management System. The Oxfordshire already had one for the hotel and a separate unit for the main building. Manual overrides had long since become the modus operandi, so getting the now three systems to work together has been one of the most challenging aspects of the retrofit.

“It’s meant being very patient”, continues Bezuidenhout, “but instead of us al having to physically check up on various rooms in the buildings, at the click of a mouse I can now see on a browser how all the equipment is performing and tweak where necessary, so again, we’re in a much better place than we were before. When we first started seeing the heat meters running, it was magic”.

Tabling a proposal to a board of directors to dig up and cut through 625 yards of precious, almost sacred golf territory, requires exquisite timing, but Bezuidenhout – an undoubted disrupter, presented his case with aplomb - sharing a firm belief with Geyser Energy that despite long-held business opinions about the built environment, it is possible to harness natural resources to significantly reduce energy, which then saves and prolongs the lifetime of older buildings.

A few innocent buoys on the largest of The Oxfordshire’s four lakes is now the only hint to a golfer that something might be going on, as the water is now used for two 2000-litre thermal heating and cooling stores in the upgraded plant room, which also now contains a cylinder for the Next Scalestop water treatment system.

Lolli Olafsson from Geyser said: “We are extremely proud of what is being achieved at The Oxfordshire, where the heating is now switched on all the time, but with set-back temperatures of 16 to 17 degrees. Yet, the venue’s heating and cooling demand isn’t just some minor change of 10 to 15 points; it’s a whopping 93 percent less than what it used to be! Ryan has to take huge credit for paving the way in showing what a business can achieve with a retrofit.”

“We have the peace of mind of being paid every quarter for the next twenty years through the RHI. Seeing all of this join up is very special. It proves that you don’t have to start all over again from scratch. For our buildings here which are close to 30 years old, this is a giant leap forward in energy efficiency, which very much protects the future of our business”.