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University of Ulster Research Helping Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Northern Ireland businesses are being urged to participate in an international study involving the University of Ulster into how natural materials like straw bales, wool, wood and stone can enhance energy efficiency.

The University is one of the main partners in the Northern Natural Energy Efficiency and Sustainability (NEES) project funded by the EU Regional Development Fund.

Other partners are from the Northern Periphery Programme (NPP) area, which includes parts of the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland.

Details of the Ulster’s involvement in the study emerged after it received a ‘First Class Honours’ award in the People and Planet Green League Table last week for the second consecutive year.

The People and Planet Green League assesses the environmental and ethical performance of UK universities annually, awarding first class ‘degrees’ to the most sustainable and a ‘fail’ to those doing the least to address their environmental and ethical impacts. Part of the NEES project involves promoting the use natural, sustainable, energy efficient building materials and services in each of the partner regions.

Derek Bond, Senior Lecturer in the Ulster Business School’s Business and Management Research Institute at the Coleraine campus, explained how local businesses could get involved in the EU funded research project.

“An open call has gone out for any businesses involved growing, manufacturing or installing locally produced ‘natural’ products, or providing services that improve the energy efficiency of new and existing domestic buildings, to get involved in the research by completing an online survey at www.neesonline.org,” he said.

Mr Bond continued: “The term ‘natural’ covers both renewable and recycled materials such as wood, stone, hemp and lime, straw bales, wool and recycled paper.

“Eligible services also span a wide spectrum, from timber-frame and bioclimatic design, to energy and sustainability assessments, and training that encourages change in local behaviour.”

Urging local businesses to complete the survey, he said it could be a springboard for them to be promoted as examples of best practice to a European audience.

“NEES plans to use a number of products and services from each region as case studies. A range of supporting materials, training packages and marketing initiatives will be developed by NEES for the selected enterprises and they will be promoted throughout the NPP region and the rest of Europe.”

Submissions are made by completing a simple on-line ‘pre-qualification questionnaire’ to establish the eligibility of the enterprise. Eligible businesses will be asked to complete a more detailed questionnaire. A panel of experts from the different partner regions will determine which submissions constitute Best Practise.