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Saturday, June 10, 2006

FEATURE: Co-op Green Q&A

I recently ended a nine month contract in the CIS Tower in Manchester. One of the ten top Green projects of 2005 was the re-cladding of its service tower with solar panels. I thought it would be worth finding out a bit more about the Cooperative group's Environmental policies, so I sent them a few questions. They were answered by Liz Thompson, an Environment Adviser at the company.

How much electricity will the solar tower generate?

The solar tower will generate 181MWh of electricity each year. This will result in a CO2 saving of 78 tonnes each year.

What percentage of the buildings total consumption is this?

The electricity generated will be enough to light six floors of the 25-storey high building or is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 55 average UK homes.

How long will it take for the solar panels to pay for themselves?

When the Tower was built in the early sixties, it was a pioneering and experimental building, and was, at the time, the tallest commercial building in the UK, leading to it becoming Grade 2 listed. However, while many aspects of the design were a success, the choice of millions of one-inch mosaic tiles to clad the windowless service tower was not. While the project will generate renewable electricity, its primary motivation was to tackle health and safety concerns. The mosaic tiles have been falling off since the building was built, and despite on-going re-fixing, over time it became clear that this was an increasing risk to the health of nearby pedestrians and was risking serious long-term damage to the building's structure. Various re-cladding solutions were explored, all of which cost many millions of pounds. The Tower's listed status meant that any solution which altered its external appearance would need robust justification. Given the significant expenditure already needed for repair and the ethics and sustainability stance of Co-operative Financial Services (see, it made sense for us to look at novel construction materials that promote sustainable development. Due to the provision of grants, this sustainable construction project is cost neutral when compared to other repair solutions.

What other microgeneration schemes does the CFS have planned or completed?

CFS has placed 19 micro-wind turbines on the roof of its Portland Street office in Manchester, making it the largest commercial application of micro-wind turbines in the UK. It is estimated that the wind turbines will produce 44MWh of renewable electricity and save 19 tonnes of CO2 each year. The micro-wind turbines became operational in May 2006.

Are the schemes to generate power on or near sites linked with energy saving initiatives (eg. replacing all filament bulbs with compact fluorescent lights, making better use of natural lighting)?

We do look at lighting and energy management programmes across the organisation.

Are there any other environmental initiatives being taken by the CFS?

Yes there are numerous initiatives - please see then refer to the section on ecological sustainability.

What is the company doing to encourage green behaviour in its customers?

Again, numerous initiatives - we offer 'green banking/insurance products' such as our mortgages and CIS insurance product for car loans, our Customers Who Cares campaign - this year is all about Combatting Climate Change. More details can be found in the 2004 Sustainability Report.

Note For more on the Co-op's ecological stance check out


How to Save the World for Free

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