National Energy Action (NEA)

Sisters Act on Saving CO2

Brettargh Holt, located in Levens, south of Kendal, was bought by the Salesian Sisters in 1971 and in the early 1980s became a Youth Pastoral Retreat centre. The building is invaluable to the local community however the heating system is in disrepair and highly expensive to run. NEA aim to run a demonstration project which will deliver practical energy efficiency improvements to Brettargh Holt.

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Registered Charity in England and Wales (290511)




  • Education/Training/EmploymentEducation/Training/Employment
  • Environment/ConservationEnvironment/Conservation
  • OtherOther


  • Children (3-18)Children (3-18)
  • Older PeopleOlder People
  • Women & GirlsWomen & Girls
  • Young People (18-30)Young People (18-30)
  • OtherOther



Project Background- Many community building committees struggle to meet their high fuel bills. The problem is often made worse as a consequence of inefficient heating systems that were installed many years ago without any consideration given to the level of use of the building or the needs of the building’s users. These systems would also have been installed with little thought given to the resulting level of carbon emissions, and in turn the impact that this could have on the local communities the buildings serve. Informed by research over the past four years, NEA has identified a funding gap meaning community buildings, which can provide the lifeblood of local areas, are unable to acquire capital for energy efficiency improvements. This is detrimental for the local people and the environment. Brettargh Holt is home to the ‘Time Out Project’, which provides the following community events/ experiences: • Youth residential experiences; • Secondary school retreat and leadership days; • Primary school days and residentials; • Sacramental preparation; • Staff In-Service days; • Adult group; • Hospitality offered to Self-led groups; • Renewal days; and • Hosts range of community groups and activities. The Salesian Sisters have recently contacted NEA for advice and assistance on improving the heating and insulation of their building. NEA’s Technical Team has subsequently visited Brettargh Holt, and sees real potential in the site as NEA’s next exemplar demonstration project. The aim of the project is to develop, manage and oversee the installation of a combination of innovative technologies and energy efficiency measures in Brettargh Holt, and highlight the potential for wider replication throughout the local community. The complete package of measures will include: - Air-source heat pump - Fan convectors - Programmable room thermostat - Optional hot water output - Innovative internal insulation system - Innovative ceiling insulation - Positive input ventilation unit This will provide approximately 12kW of space heat to the building and will replace an electric heating system already in operation. It will be fully controllable by the user. Measures and installation costs will be minimised through NEA’s links with manufacturers. The key objectives of the project are to: (a) Install a renewable energy, air-source heat pump heating system and associated energy efficiency measures to bring social, environmental and economic benefits to the local community; (b) Reduce energy costs for the building; (c) Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the building; (d) Stimulate greater local interest in sustainable energy and traditional energy efficiency measures, and encourage people to ‘think green’; (e) Appoint a trusted energy champion, who will be trained as a leader in their field, to offer energy efficiency advice to users of their community building; and (f) Raise awareness of new and renewable energy technologies amongst the local community to increase market demand for these products. A key element of the project will be the appointment of an Energy Champion at Brettargh Holt. This is likely to be one the Salesian Sisters who has an interest in sustainable energy or a member of the local community who is a regular user of the building. An Energy Champion at the building will provide a long-term support network for the local area to advise on best practice in sustainability and energy efficiency. They will further empower local people by providing advice on energy efficiency and sustainable energy allowing greater control of fuel bills and increasing their ability to provide affordable warmth in their own home. For example, when a local person enquires about the energy saving technology installed at the community building the energy champion is the first point of contact. Their role is then to further fuel this initial interest and to signpost the person to grants available within the UK for implementation of sustainable energy technologies in their own home. A crucial aspect of the project will be raising awareness amongst the local community and amongst other community building committees. The key method of communicating the work will be an awareness raising lunch held at Brettargh Holt once the installation has been completed. Previous promotional events such as these have attracted over sixty people, mainly local residents and other community building committees, as well as the local MP. This element of the project will be promoted widely, and as with previously community building projects, it is anticipated press coverage will be obtained enabling NEA to promote the sponsor’s involvement in the project. Support of £34,000 + VAT is required to fund the project at Brettargh Holt during 2008-09. This will support NEA project development costs, technology and installation costs, an awareness raising lunch at the community building and training and mentoring for one Energy Champion.