Project name: Cullen Community and Residential Centre options appraisal
Location: Cullen, Moray
CARES funding: £15,000 enablement grant
Completed: October 2021

About Cullen Community and Residential Centre

The Cullen Community and Residential Centre in Cullen, Moray, provides a wide range of indoor and outdoor facilities for community groups, activities and social events. It also provides affordable accommodation for guests and is used for activity weekends and outdoor learning by groups including the Girl Guides, Boys Brigade, schools and universities. The centre is run by The Three Kings Cullen Association, a local charity, which is directed by a team of volunteers.

The building currently has an old, outdated heating system and electricity circuits, and is not very energy efficient. The charity, which is responsible for covering its operating costs, are keen to improve the building’s sustainability and reduce its energy use, which is one of the centre’s biggest ongoing costs.

Cullen Community Centre

Project aims and objectives

The project aimed to deliver an options appraisal that would advise the charity on the optimum improvements it could make to help reduce, or eliminate, the amount of fossil fuels the building uses.

As well as looking at established renewable technologies, the charity was also keen to look at other innovative measures that could make a significant difference to the centre’s energy use. It also wanted to inspire others in the community to follow the centre’s example to reduce energy consumption, carbon emissions and energy costs.

Outcomes and achievements

The charity was presented with a detailed report with recommendations on how the centre could become a zero-carbon community centre.

The report highlighted that the fabric of the building required many improvements such as improving its insulation and glazing before the charity could consider installing a ground source heat pump.

The report also recommended a scheme on how to divide the centre’s heating system into zones to give the operators more control of which parts of the building it could choose to heat. For example, by using a zone system, it is possible to turn the heating down in the residential parts of the building when no guests are staying, thus reducing the energy bill and saving the charity money.

The heating engineers also devise a configuration of solar panels which would provide the centre with its electricity needs alongside a battery storage facility to save excess power for use at another time.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “The appraisal study looked at all the renewable technologies available and detailed the pros and cons of all the different systems. This study has enabled us to produce a plan which we can complement over a longer period, and can be done by zones, which allows us continued use of the building while the work continues. Without CARES support, we would have struggled to come up with such a cohesive plan.”
“We now have confidence on the road ahead, and how to achieve it. The guidance given by CARES has enabled this to happen. We now look forward to a future knowing we can go green.”

Since receiving the options appraisal, the charity is busy making energy efficiency improvements. At the time of writing (January 2022) it is preparing to separate the building’s heating system into zones and is searching for a contractor to carry out the work. The charity has also received quotations for new LED lighting and insulation and has received funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise to do this. The charity has also since secured more funding from CARES to install solar panels and a battery storage system and are currently in the process of getting permissions to install these.

Lessons learned

When asked what tips they could give to others undergoing a similar project, the spokesperson said:

“Always have an onsite meeting with the experts you are working with – get them all there on the same day so they all know each other. Have regular meetings and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The experts tend to use a lot of acronyms, but don’t be afraid to ask them what they all mean.”

Find out more about Cullen Community and Residential Centre.