Underfloor heating pipes are being laid in Bath Abbey as part of an innovative thermal heating system to heat the Abbey and adjacent buildings using Bath’s famous hot springs.
As part of the Abbey’s Footprint project, sections of the medieval church have been closed off to the public since May 2018 for essential repairs and restoration work to save the Abbey floor from collapse.
At the same time, the historic floor is also being fitted throughout with an eco-friendly underfloor heating system that will eventually be fuelled using renewable energy generated by Bath’s thermal water.
Every day, a quarter of a million gallons of hot water flow through the Roman Baths from the thermal spring located at the heart of the site. A large quantity of this hot water eventually ends up in the nearby River Avon via the Great Roman Drain. When harnessed and converted, it could potentially produce 1.5 megawatts of continuous energy to support a 200kW ground source heat pump system.
Later this month, contractors will be working on the final section of the Abbey’s floor in the South transept. The next stage is for the engineers to install heat exchangers in the Great Roman Drain which will capture the energy in the hot spring water and transform it into renewable energy. This is anticipated to take place at the end of the year and the Footprint project as a whole is due to complete at the end of 2021.
Nathan Ward, Footprint Project Director, said: “Footprint is a fantastic multi-faceted project that will restore the Abbey and improve the way it serves its community, visitors and worshippers. The work to the floor is simply one aspect of the project, but it has offered us an amazing opportunity. We urgently needed to repair the collapsing floor, but we will also replace the Victorian heating system with a greener and more efficient solution.
“The thermal heating scheme really is the ideal solution, it allows us to preserve the heritage and setting of the Abbey while improving its environmental sustainability by using a renewable energy sourced locally through Bath’s famous hot springs, directly heating one of the city’s famous landmarks. This is a hugely challenging task and we are so grateful to our team of consultants and contractors who are working together to deliver this scheme, as well as our generous supporters who have made this possible.”
The Abbey’s Footprint project is a £19.3 million programme of work, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, that will provide new spaces for learning, music and interpretation, better visitor facilities, undertake essential conservation work, as well as opportunities for volunteer and community involvement. It will secure the Abbey’s physical future and improve its hospitality, worship and service to the city.
In addition to the thermal heating project, building work is also currently being carried out as part of the Footprint project to create new space and improved facilities in the underground vaults between Bath Abbey and Abbey Chambers, as well as in the adjacent terrace row of houses in Kingston Buildings which will house the new Song School.