Dorset History Centre Main Map Image

Dorset History Centre – Passive Air-Handling Project

Location: Dorchester, Dorset
Project cost:
Grant: £61,637
Estimated Savings: 90 tonnes of CO2e* per year / £20,000 per year 
Equipment / Installer: Improvements to air tightness of building structure (Westmade), Installation of two closed radiator systems (Watertite Ltd), Specialist consultancy (Architype)

View Dorset History Centre’s case study here

In a bid to reduce the high energy costs of housing historic archives, Dorset History Centre has become one of the first institutions of its kind to move to a largely passive air-handling system.  This innovative approach involved improving the air tightness of the structure of the building and replacing existing air handling and heating systems with much simpler smaller scale systems better suited to minimal heating and humidity control.

It is expected that this project will save the centre around 90 tonnes of CO2e and £20k in energy costs each year, reducing their electricity energy consumption by 80%.

Dorset History Centre is the archives service and local studies library for Bournemouth, Christchurch, Dorset and Poole.  Back in 2012, driven by their very high energy costs, the Dorset History Centre team started looking at how they could better deal with the requirements of housing their archives. The idea of passive technology to reduce energy usage was first suggested to them by buildings physicist Tim Padfield. This prompted the Centre to commission a full report into retrofitting their building to take a much more ‘passive building’ approach, which had the potential for considerable energy cost savings.  The team then contacted the architects behind the construction of a new passive building Archive Centre in Herefordshire who confirmed that a passive environmental control scheme would be technically possible for the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester. It was the combination of these reports, and the evidence they provided on a passive-building approach, which prompted the centre to contact Low Carbon Dorset.

This innovative approach sought to make the fabric and structure of the Dorset History Centre airtight – essentially sealing walls with impermeable paint and filling cracks to prevent air ingress/egress. Making the Centre a more stable environment in terms of temperature and humidity. Two new closed radiator systems with lower energy requirements were installed – and are also quite unusual to find in an Archive building.

The scheme has been project managed through Dorset Council (as the building owner). There has been a minor teething problem in one small part of the building which is being resolved. Overall, it has worked well, proving that this novel approach can work in an Archive setting.

This innovative project has reduced the History Centre’s electricity energy consumption by about 80%. Before, annual energy costs for electricity and gas were around £30,000. Now they are down to about £5-10,000.  The Centre already benefits from a solar PV array on the roof (installed about six years ago) so sometimes they can be virtually cost neutral on electricity costs.

The novel approach taken at the Dorset History Centre is one that other archive services could learn from, and the team has already received requests from other centres in the UK wanting to know more about their project.

The Low Carbon Dorset report highlighted other actions that could also be taken, such as installation of heat pumps and further use of LED lighting. Opportunities are now being explored by the History Centre team to take these forward and build on the benefits that the Low Carbon Dorset supported scheme has made.

“This has been a great project, radically improving the efficiency of the building, saving energy and helping to reduce environmental damage.

“It couldn’t have happened without the Low Carbon Dorset programme which provided the catalyst and expert advice.”

Sam Johnston, Service Manager for Archives, Dorset History Centre

*CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, is a term used to describe different greenhouse gases in a common unit. For any quantity and type of greenhouse gas, CO2e signifies the amount of CO2 which would have the equivalent global warming impact. And allows us to express a carbon footprint consisting of lots of different greenhouse gases as a single number.

Latest Facebook Posts

Low Carbon Dorset
Low Carbon Dorset1 week ago
Only 1 week to go until the 'Our Journey to Net Zero' exhibition launch event at Kingston Maurward College 🙌
The event is free to attend for all Dorset based community groups and businesses. And will be a great opportunity to find out what others are doing to cut emissions and become more sustainable in Dorset.
Our technical officers will also be on hand to give free advice on how you can reduce the carbon footprint of your organisation.
Spaces are limited, so book your free place 👉

Dorset Community Action Dorchester Chamber Kingston Maurward College @followers Bridport Business Chamber Weymouth Town Council Bridport Town Council Litter Free Dorset - Land, Coast & Sea
Low Carbon Dorset
Low Carbon Dorset2 weeks ago
And we're off... the Our Journey to Net Zero photo exhibition kicks off today at Durlston Country Park ahead of its official launch on Wed 22nd May 🙌

The exhibition will be touring venues across Dorset this summer, showing some of the inspiring projects we've supported and the people behind them.

If you're a Dorset based business or community group and haven't already signed up to attend our exhibition launch event next Wednesday, don't worry there's still time (link to register in comments 👇).

Durlston Country Park Dorset Council
Low Carbon Dorset
Low Carbon Dorset2 weeks ago
Free networking opportunity 📣
Is your business or community group interested in reducing energy use and becoming more sustainable?
Then come along to the 'Our Journey to Net Zero' exhibition launch to find out what other organisations in Dorset are doing to cut emissions and energy costs.
Our technical officers will also be on hand to give you free advice on how your organisation can do the same.
Spaces are limited so please be sure to register your free place.


Sign up for the Low Carbon Dorset newsletter

Sign up

Get in touch

County Hall, Colliton Park, Dorchester, DT1 1XJ

Photography on this site (c) DCC / Rosie Mathisen / Mark Heighes / Dave Penman / Andy Lyons / Gillian Thomas / Darren McCall

We are using cookies on our website

We use cookies to make the site simpler. By continuing to use this site and closing this message you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about cookies