Representing estates and facilities professionals operating within the  



Oxford energy project delivers many benefits

The Energy Project at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) was a finalist at the 2018 HEFMA Awards, in two categories: Efficiency & Improvement and Project of the Year. 


Whilst the financial and CO₂ savings of the innovative Energy Project have been widely reported, other equally impressive benefits are also now beginning to show through.


The Energy Project was delivered in partnership with Vital Energi and the Carbon Energy Fund. It replaced the aged heating and power infrastructure at the John Ratcliffe (JR) and Churchill Hospitals in Oxford with a Combined Heat & Power generator at the JR and a link carrying an HV cable and hot water pipes to the Churchill via an underground district heating system. In addition, the BMS, over 6,000 light fittings, and the JR’s main air conditioning plant were also replaced as part of project. In the first six months of full operations, the Trust saved £1.5 million on the retained estate’s heating and power bill and CO₂ emissions were down by 6,739 tonnes. 


The Trust has also been able to write off of £11 million of backlog maintenance and, because Vital Energi will maintain the CHP and Energy Centre for the next 25 years, the Trust’s own staff who were constantly deployed on boiler repairs, are now able to do more proactive work in the estate.

Claire Hennessy, OUH’s Head of Operational Estates & Facilities, explains: “The Energy Project was a team effort from the start and, because our in-house M&E staff know every inch of the hospitals and these old buildings’ peculiarities and quirks, our advice and knowledge were absolutely critical to the project’s success. 


“For example, when Vital Energy had to shut down the old equipment to fit new heat stations, pumps or piping, etc, our engineers knew exactly what the knock-on effects would be all the way down the line. They also knew the right matrons and managers to talk to and find out what they needed in advance so that, when the shutdowns occurred, everyone knew what to expect. 

“This close collaboration enabled us to install this entire £14.7 million system without any interruptions to patient care at the JR or Churchill. Given the complexity of integrating the new with the old, the size of our hospitals and number of patients the Trust sees every day, I think this is a huge achievement.”


Vital Energi and the Trust have a 25-year contract for Vital Energi to maintain the Energy Centre.  Claire Hennessy continues: “Our O&M team will work hand in hand with Vital for the next 25 years so we had to build mutual confidence to make it easier for us to work together when problems arise. That kind of trust doesn’t happen overnight, so it was important that we established it over the length of the installation and create a strong working relationship.”


This project was a first to the Operational Estates team. They had previously been seen as post-completion maintenance, rather than as project managers. However, in this instance, the business case was prepared by Claire Hennessy and Finance Manager, Edel Wyse. “We were just the right fit for preparing the business case because, although we both have very different skills and backgrounds, we both wanted the same goal: to install a future-proofed infrastructure that would deliver sustainable, efficient and maintainable power and heat. Whatever the solution, it had to be capable of a lot more than just replacing the existing demand. 


“Combining my engineering background with Edel’s financial expertise was enormously beneficial in the procurement process and contractual negotiations and, once work was underway, we all knew the background, so decisions were quicker.” 


If Claire Hennessy had to list the elements that contributed to the success of the Energy Project they would be:

* Teamwork

* Trust and respect

* Intense forward planning

* Communications

* Vision

* And a shared commitment to excellence.


“If Vital Energi and their contractors had not shared our values, this project would not have been the success we see today. It demanded close teamwork and commitment at every stage so that everyone could complete their part of the daily jigsaw; without this, work would have stopped. The O&M team also grew in confidence and skills during the Energy Project because they were given new responsibilities and a much bigger voice than they had ever had before.


“When all is said and done, replacing boilers at the JR and Churchill may not be the most exciting achievement in a Trust where world beating science and research are every day occurrences, but I am enormously proud of what operational estates has achieved. My O&M team’s total commitment to patient care has always been relied upon by clinicians and patients alike but, with the Energy Project we showed just how diverse and skilled we all are!”