The Blue Bell Centre in Merseyside was designed to be the first BREEAM Healthcare Excellent building and the lowest energy LIFT building. To achieve this, the design of the building was based on a ‘fabric-first’ approach with high thermal mass, insulation and airtightness.

The centre was commissioned by Knowsley Primary Care Trust (PCT) and provides a range of primary healthcare services at a local level. The two-storey building accommodates a pharmacy and community healthcare services on the ground floor, with three individual GP practices on the first floor.

The building’s energy is supplied entirely by electricity: heating and cooling is by Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) and hot water is heated by solar thermal panels, an ASHP and immersion heaters. The central atrium waiting area has natural ventilation, while the cellular rooms off the core area are mechanically ventilated with heat recovery.

The design of Blue Bell was driven by BREEAM and planning requirements, which has led to complex and, in some cases, over-specified services. This has resulted in poor installation and integration of the different systems, and has made it difficult to operate the building effectively and efficiently.

A Building Performance Evaluation study, undertaken between February 2012 and August 2014, showed that in initial operation the building was consuming over twice the predicted energy and highlighted a number of issues and reasons for this.

The main issues were with the Building Management System (BMS) as installed, the operation of the heating, cooling and ventilation systems, the three different systems for heating domestic hot water, and the inconsistent and limited lighting control.

These issues were addressed as far as practically possible within the limited budget, which has resulted in a significant energy saving of 26% between 2012 and 2014. The interventions have resulted in annual cost saving of £11,500 p.a on energy bills.