The greener  the better

The greener the better

It’s fair to say that the Holiday Property Bond did not come into the world bristling with eco-credentials; 1983 was a very different time, after all. But over the years the environment has assumed ever more importance – to us, to our Bondholders, to everyone.

Not coincidentally Merlewood, in the southern Lake District, HPB’s newest site, is also one of its greenest. An air-source heat pump takes warmth out of the air in the swimming pool room and puts it back into the pool. Heat-retaining piping does what that description implies, keeping heat in the pipes that supply the properties. Low-voltage LED lighting is fitted in the new properties, and is being installed in the nine apartments in the Grade II-listed Victorian mansion, as well as the “public” areas (the pool room, the snooker room etc). Officially opened on 20th October last year, all the new properties are double-glazed and fully insulated, as is the main building, with double glazing where listing restrictions allow. A weather compensation system measures the temperature outside the main building and the 46 surrounding properties and varies the temperature of the water pumped into the heating systems accordingly, providing occupants with increased comfort levels whilst also reducing the amount of energy consumed as the boiler fires less often as the system water temperature will be at a lower level.

Ah, yes: the boiler. Merlewood is the Bond’s first site to feature a biomass-fired heating system – an expensive piece of equipment, but one that ticks both environmental and, in time, economic boxes.

Biomass is biological material obtained from living or recently living organic matter that can be processed into electricity, fuel and heat. Biomass has been used for thousands of years (every time you light a log fire, that’s what you’re using) and there are many forms available: sustainable forestry and forestry residues, residual agricultural products, such as straw, sunflower seed husks and peanut husks, and purpose-grown energy crops. Biomass is part of the carbon cycle; throughout its lifetime biomass absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and, through the process of photosynthesis, stores it as energy. When biomass is burnt carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Biomass, such as crops and trees, are then replanted and the whole process starts again, maintaining a carbon equilibrium.

Biomass would not be appropriate for all of the Bond’s sites. Lanzarote, for example, where HPB has its Santa Rosa home, is, as well as being warm to hot pretty much all year, virtually treeless; the environmental and economic cost of transporting the fuel would be a price too high. But for a location like Merlewood, surrounded by or close to extensive woodland, it is, in modern parlance, a “no-brainer”.

Biomass boilers generally burn logs, wood chips or, as is the case at Merlewood, wood pellets. And they are voracious – to supply the whole site with heating and hot water the Merlewood boiler is getting through 10 tons of pellets a week, at a cost of £1,000. But as site manager Marion St Quinton points out, an oil-fired heating system would cost nearly three times as much per week to run. And, as long as enough new trees are planted to compensate, the environmental cost will be zero.

But for Howard St Quinton, Marion’s partner and assistant site manager in all but name, the fact that the boiler is now running at full capacity is a source of considerable satisfaction. “The apartments in the main building have been welcoming Bondholders for a while now,” he says. “But for a system like this to heat so few rooms is like… I don’t know… using a Ferrari to pop down the shops. It’s much happier, and more efficient, running at full speed.”

Which means visitors to Howard’s boiler room – and there are many for whom a gander at the heating system is a highlight of the holiday – now have even more to marvel at…

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