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Cork City – Cork – Ireland

Lifetime Lab education centre


Lifetime Lab, on the banks of the River Lee, is an education centre for the environment, energy and heritage. The Lab is a unique attraction for visitors of all ages with its modern interactive exhibition, themed playground, beautifully restored buildings and equipment and scenic views over the River Lee. Lifetime Lab is located at the old Cork City Waterworks, which was responsible for supplying water to the city of Cork over the past three centuries. The Waterworks is the best-preserved of its kind in Ireland. The old buildings and machinery have been carefully restored and are now being used to tell the story of how water was supplied to Cork City in the past.

Staff at the Lifetime Lab and the Cork City Energy Agency have worked together to reduce energy use, water use and waste, through behavioural change and by making simple adjustments to equipment. The Lab is also proving to be an excellent forum for promoting the virtues of energy conservation, renewable energy and waste reduction to its many visitors from the wider community.

Building details

Type of building : Social/cultural/historic buildings
Year of construction/ Floor area/ Operating hours : Several buildings make up the Lifetime Lab, which includes a conference hall, a reception hall, a kitchen, interactive exhibit rooms, a visitor’s centre, a steam centre, a school resource centre/classroom, an information centre and several offices including the office of the Cork City Energy Agency. The buildings were constructed from the middle of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century, and were restored in 2005.

_ Total floor area : 658m2.

_ Operating hours : 9 hours per day, 320 days per year.
Heating and cooling / measures installed Geothermal heat pump ; solar thermal heating ; natural ventilation cooling.
Energy/CO2/Water label (before and after improvements if possible) Display® labels before improvements were made :

Energy : D

CO2 : E

Water : C

Changes to reduce energy consumption have been made continuously over the past year. It is hoped that these improvements will be reflected in future Display® Posters.

Project Description

Aim The aim of this project was to :

  • Minimise and optimise energy use at the Lifetime Lab.
  • Reduce water use.
  • Reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Reduce and recycle waste.
  • Promote energy conservation and environmental protection to all visitors.
Key points In 2005, the buildings that make up the Lifetime Lab were restored. Because the buildings are of historical importance, certain modifications were limited during the restoration. Where possible, insulation was installed in the buildings. In the school resource centre, the existing louvered ventilated roof light was repaired, allowing controllable natural ventilation and providing natural light to the room.

_ Renewable energy systems were also installed during the restoration, including :

  • Two ground-source geothermal heat-pumps ;
  • Solar evacuated tubes (solar thermal collectors) for water-heating ;
  • Solar PV panels ;

  • A wind mill to demonstrate wind energy ; and
  • Existing water turbines were converted to produce hydro-power.

_ Recently, staff at the Lifetime Lab and the Cork City Energy Agency have worked together to reduce energy use, water use and waste. This has been achieved by making simple adjustments to equipment and encouraging behavioural change. Behavioural change in the wider community has also been promoted by using communication tools.

_ Adjustments to equipment :

  • Spot light bulbs in the reception were changed from 100 watts to 50 watts.
  • The operational hours of the courtyard spot lights were adjusted and rescheduled in accordance with day-length, so that the lights are on for less time in summer than in winter.
  • The operational hours of kitchen equipment were reviewed and reduced. For example, it was discovered that the immersion, an electrical device used for water-heating in the education building, was running for 10 hours a day but the hot-water was not being used – it has now been switched off completely. The operational hours of the espresso machine have been reduced by 2½ hours a day.
  • The water flow-rate of all taps was reduced by 50%, because it was set too high.

_ Changes in behaviour

_ In order to raise awareness of energy conservation among staff and encourage behavioural change, meetings were held by the Cork City Energy Agency with Lifetime Lab staff to discuss the need for energy conservation. Posters and signs were also created to show how potential energy savings could be achieved.

As a result, kitchen facilities and working appliances are now used more sensibly by staff. For example, on a Friday, all food is moved to one refrigerator so that the rest can be switched off for the weekend. Computers and printers are also switched off at the end of each day.

_ Staff are also learning the necessary skills to control the Building Management System installed in Lifetime Lab. This will ensure that the system is set-up to use energy efficiently.

_ As well as conserving energy, staff are also trying to reduce, reuse and recycle waste. For example, delivery boxes were kept and wrapped up to make Christmas decorations and paper with printing on only one side is now kept and reused.

Communication and education :

  • 85% of Lifetime Lab’s energy comes from renewable energy sources including solar, geothermal, hydro and wind. All of these renewable energy systems are visible on-site along with information on the systems in order to educate visitors on renewable energy.
  • Visitors are invited to give their own pledge to protect the environment and conserve energy, and these pledges are displayed in the reception area of the Lifetime Lab.
  • Two posters with ‘Energy Saving Tips’ were produced, one for residential homes and one for businesses. These posters were distributed to libraries and other public buildings and to households.
  • Waste materials such as plastic packages, electrical wires, pens, ice-cream sticks etc, are collected and made into toys, demonstration tools and Christmas gifts by visiting school children.

  • An energy awareness poster competition was held, in which children submitted their drawings, which focused on ways to save energy.

    The key driver that led to this project occurring was the commitment of the Lifetime Lab and the Cork City Energy Agency to promoting energy conservation and renewable energy development.

Reason for inclusion as Shining Example The Display® ratings of the Lifetime Lab are quite low due to the age of the buildings (over 100 years old) and the potential for structural improvements to energy efficiency is limited because of the historical importance of the buildings. However, despite this barrier, energy and water use within the Lab have been reduced by focusing on reducing consumption through behavioural change and minor changes to equipment. In its role as an education centre, the Lifetime Lab has done its best to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy practices and waste reduction. Visitors are invited to pledge to conserve energy and protect the environment.

Costs & Benefits

Costs & funding The cost of this project was minimal because the improvements in energy and water efficiency were achieved by adjusting equipment and through behavioural change of staff.
Benefits Around 35,000 kWh of energy and €5000 will be saved during the coming year due to the changes implemented at Lifetime Lab. Around 27 tonnes of CO2 emissions will be avoided over the same period.


Partnership details Cork City Energy Agency provided advice to the Lifetime Lab on how to improve energy efficiency and utilise renewable energy. The Agency also helped to implement all of the suggested actions.

_ Cork City Energy Agency is a section of the Cork City Council Environment Directorate. The agency aims to develop, ratify and implement coherent energy policy for Cork City Council. To this end, Cork City Council has spearheaded many energy initiatives and through these actions contributed to the promotion of renewable energy and sustainable initiatives. The agency has also contributed to the development of energy policy at local, national and EU level.


Achievements Difficulties

_ Lifetime Lab is a multi-building site including a conference hall, a reception hall, a kitchen, interactive exhibit rooms, a visitor’s centre, a steam centre, a school resource centre/classroom, an information centre and several offices. Consequently, there is large variation among the buildings in terms of their size, function, frequency of use and levels of insulation. Therefore, different approaches to conserving energy and water are needed for different buildings.

_ In the interests of heritage protection, major modification of some of the buildings is not possible, which has placed limitations on the energy efficiency measures that can be installed. For example, insulation could only be installed in some parts of the buildings. This project overcame this barrier by focusing on other means of reducing energy consumption, such as behavioural change and adjusting equipment within the buildings.

_ Monitoring success

_ In order to monitor and evaluate the success of this project for reducing energy consumption, energy bills are kept so that consumption over time can be analysed.

_ The project has had several successful outcomes :

  • Energy consumption of the Lifetime Lab has been reduced.
  • Staff have gained knowledge of the building management system and have increased awareness of energy conservation.
  • Information on renewable energy and energy conservation was displayed to over 12,000 visitors in 2006.
Lessons Learned Key issues/lessons learned

  • Changes that affect staff can be difficult to make. Therefore it is important to identify the benefits of proposed changes and to discuss the proposals with staff to gain their acceptance and consent.
  • Although changes may result in high short-term costs, this can be offset by long-term benefits.
  • It is important to continuously reinforce behavioural change to ensure that energy and water-saving behaviour is maintained.

_ Replication

_ The actions taken to reduce energy and water consumption within the Lifetime Lab are easily repeatable and widely applicable. These actions involved very simple adjustments to energy and water-using equipment and focused on encouraging energy conservation through behavioural change.

To know more



Cork City Energy Agency
Contact Yin Wang
Phone +353 (0)21 4941510

Useful Info

Publications “Energy Saving Tips” for homes and businesses, produced by the Cork City Energy Agency.
Arrangements to visit Lifetime Lab is open to visitors during the following times :

October - March : - 5 days per week 9.30-3.30 (not including bank holidays)

April - September : Mon – Fri : 9.30-5.00

Sat + Sun : 10.00-4.00) (including bank holidays)

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