GREEN WITH ALUMNUS HELP An alumnus of Robinson College Cambridge, who now runs his own cleantech company, has returned to develop a unique way of harnessing water from a brook running through the college gardens to heat the educational institutional.

Mark Hewitt, a graduate in Architecture at Robinson College in the 1980s, is the CEO of ICAX, a cleantech delivery and innovation company providing renewable heating and cooling for buildings and infrastructure.

“Every year students call alumni to keep them in touch with college news and ask if there are ways we can support Robinson College,” said Mark. “During the call a couple of summers ago it occurred to me that I could look at the heating system, and see if we could introduce heat pumps for heating and take out some of the gas usage. My room in college was over Bin Brook, so I guess I was wondering whether this might be a useful source of energy that we could harness.”

This led to the development of a 300-kilowatt system that extracts heat from the water in Bin Brook, a tributary of the River Cam, to support the main boiler system. It is estimated that the cost will be recouped in six years and it will deliver around £1.4m of revenue to the college over the next 20 years.

Bill McKim, Robinson College’s Facilities Manager said: “To achieve this ICAX designed and built a weir to pull water out of the brook. The water then passes through the equipment and back into the stream.” The services sub contactor on the work was Modus Property Services.

The team also worked closely with the Environment Agency, which gave its first consent for a weir to be built in 10 years. “The agency was particularly impressed by the design, which facilitates the passage of eels up Bin Brook via an ‘eel bridge’,” said Bill.

Mark added: “We really want to know if the eels will thrive now that we have made a route for them to travel up and down Bin Brook, so we would be grateful to hear of any sightings as


people travel past the weir on the way to lunch.”

Mark also believes this could be the start of something bigger across Cambridge. “It was a pleasure to engage with my former Director of Studies in Architecture, John Sergeant, who is a current Fellow, and other members including the bursary, steward and facilities teams, in working out how to make this happen at Robinson.

“It is credit to all these people that this piece of sustainable technology is now there for all to see. Any other colleges that have river frontage can follow Robinson’s lead, and the net impact on Cambridge’s carbon footprint could become quite significant.”

The development of the water source heat pump is part of Robinson College’s ongoing sustainability focus. Bill said: “We are always looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint and overall impact on the environment, such as installing solar panels on our roof and supplying all staff with refillable water bottles.”

Alexis Moreau, Robinson College’s Head of Conference and Catering Services, said: “We send nothing to landfill and our food waste gets turned into fuel. We have also introduced a more sustainable food policy including introducing more vegetarian and vegan choices to menus in the college and the conference centre.”

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