Nov 23 2022
At Larchfield Estate, the amount of carbon produced by hosting an event or enjoying an overnight stay is automatically offset on site making this Co. Down destination venue one of the very few companies across the UK able to claim that we are not only ‘carbon zero’, but more impressively ‘carbon negative’!
Recently, our owners Gavin and Sarah Mackie completed the Business In The Community Sustainability course as recommended by Danske Bank, driven by their wish to ensure that, as a company, we do our part in protecting the environment. They are passionate about creating memories for all of our clients and guests at Larchfield Estate whilst simultaneously safeguarding the heritage and environs that make the 600 acre estate the breathtakingly special place that it is.
Gavin Mackie explains some of the steps taken so far… ‘When we took on Larchfield in 2007, the barn was heated with electric radiators powered from a diesel generator. We approached NIE to try and increase our supply but the quotes to do this were prohibitively expensive. This therefore started us down a route to see how we could reduce our electric requirements. First , we set the generator to only power on when demand required extra electricity and we changed all of our light bulbs to LEDs. Often we would find that when caterers turned on the two electric cookers the generator would kick in, so we changed all of the cookers to gas. Next we installed 12kVA of PV solar panels onto the roof of a nearby shed to cover the daytime electric used by our office and barn events space.
The big issue remaining was heating of the barn, orangery and all the hot water which was still very expensive and used a lot of diesel. So in 2015 we installed a new biomass boiler to heat the house and in 2017 we dug a 2m deep by 110m long track from the Biomass boiler to the barn and installed a Rehau heavily insulated pipe. This allowed us to remove all the electric heaters in the barn and to change the heating to run via fin tube piping and strat fans. Not only is this very effective, it makes the rustic 1800s stone barn look smarter with no electric radiators on the walls. Thermostats in each room then only call for heat when required.
(Lucky Gavin is an engineer by profession and specialised in flows of fluids in pipelines!)
Lights around the estate are on sensors (both movement and light) so when an event isn’t taking place lights aren’t left on needlessly. We recycle bottles and waste where possible. The next stage will be for us to start working with suppliers to reduce waste produced during events and helping our clients to keep their footprint low.
One of the challenges of a heritage venue is retro fitting new technology – but recent advances have enabled us to trial and embrace – for example the Old Piggery events space has its temperature monitored online and works out the outside temperature so it will automatically turn on the boilers to heat the building in time for events starting and we shall be testing smart thermostats in our cottage accommodation this coming winter.
One area that we are acutely aware of is sequestering of carbon and as the methodology of accurate measurement develops we look forward to more accurate analysis, different recognised measuring systems have us at various levels of carbon negative!. The land and size and number of trees on it at Larchfield Estate make us carbon negative – that is to say, below net zero. We sequester more carbon every day than we produce. This is a big positive for all our clients as means that any event or stay at Larchfield Estate is always offset.
In addition we replant a huge number of trees every year mostly native hardwood. We strive to increase our wildflower meadows, seed crops for birds and wild wetland areas to create the largest biodiversity of animals possible.
Looking into the future we want to install additional solar panels onto shed roofs to link into some of our accommodation and ideally the main house. While our biomass boiler has substantially reduced carbon omissions the technology in this sector has moved rapidly and therefore we’re looking to install a much more efficient biomass boiler which should burn 1/3 less timber. We wish to capture more rainwater off the roofs to use for watering the Walled Gardens.
Bearing in mind the unique need for heritage buildings designed to ‘breathe’ we are researching how we can sympathetically insulate all our buildings further without detriment to the fabrication of the buildings.
As owners we feel passionately about taking all reasonable steps we can to reducing our Scope 1 and 2 emissions. We will be tackling our scope 3 emissions by encouraging our suppliers to look at and reduce where possible their carbon footprint. Clients too can take steps to reduce their footprint and this will be covered in future blogs.
More than ever, not only offsetting, but reducing our carbon footprint is at the forefront of our minds. It is a simple fact that should our ways not change, the beautiful landscapes and species which surround us will not remain the same in a few short years. For a company to be able to firmly state that their running is a leap beyond carbon neutral; carbon negative, is no small feat.
If we all do our bit we can protect this amazing planet that we live on.’