Hebburn-EcoCentreUK: When the pioneering Hebburn Eco Centre needed to replace its 20-year-old ground-source heating, the buildings owners turned to a cascade air-source heat pump system from Mitsubishi Electric.

Designed and built by Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle (STAN) and opened in 1991, the Eco Centre was a pioneering venture to demonstrate renewable technologies and sustainable design.

Today the Eco Centre remains one of Europe’s most sustainable buildings.  

The 1,200m² building is the Groundwork Trust’s headquarters, which has a mission to support local communities. It lets out 16 office spaces, as well as offering daily hire of its board and conference rooms.

The office complex was originally built with a very green ethos in mind, with all materials recycled from sustainable sources, including re-used bricks from a demolished factory, an aluminium roof re-smelted from old drink cans, wood from farmed forests and woollen carpets.  

It also has high levels of insulation to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat the building and keep the occupants warm.

Electricity is generated by an on-site wind turbine and photovoltaic display, helping to ensure that the award-winning project has become an exemplar of sustainability.

The ground source system had worked well but it was getting on a bit, so Groundwork took the decision to replace it with an air-source system, explained Jason Oakes, business development director of the installation company Oakes Energy.

What they needed, though, was a new system that could work with the existing infrastructure and one that could cope with a variable demand for heating throughout the year.

Oakes Energy worked with Minden Wood Consultants to find an ideal solution, which turned out to be four Ecodan 14kW air source heat pumps working together in a cascade system.

The purpose-built, two-storey building provides tenancies for local start-up businesses, along with support for local jobs, job creation and social enterprise. The building offers 16 offices to let, ranging in size from 30m² to 104m².