Celebrating the Assembly’s Commitment to Sustainability for Earth Hour

‘Make a promise for the planet’ is the theme for this year’s Earth Hour, which will take place on Saturday 24 March between 20:30 and 21:30. The Assembly will be taking part in this year’s Earth Hour by switching off the lights in the Senedd, Ty Hywel and Pierhead buildings. Many of our AMs have also made the pledge to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) to support the campaign.

Sustainability is important to us at the Assembly, and we’ve made it our responsibility to reduce our impact on the environment and operate in an environmentally responsible manner in all our activities. Read more about how we’re striving to operate a sustainable Assembly now and in the future.

How we ensure a sustainable Senedd

Heating

Geothermal heating is used to help warm the Senedd.  Water is pumped down 100 meters through 27 bore holes and heated naturally by the earth’s temperature. The water is then pumped back up to help warm the water in our heating system.  This process is supported by a biomass boiler which uses sustainably-sourced timber from around the UK to provide a relatively carbon-neutral fuel source.

During the warmer months the process is reversed. When the water is pumped down the heat is dispersed underground as the earth acts like a heat sink. The cooler water is then pumped back up acting as a coolant for the building.

Rainwater harvesting

The Senedd’s rainwater harvesting system is used in the washrooms and for cleaning the building. This works so well that the building only needs to be supplied with around £40 worth of mains water a month.

Rain water which falls onto the Senedd roof is channelled towards the front of the building, through two pipes and into a tank where it is then filtered through ultra violet (UV) lights. This water is then reused for flushing toilets and washing windows.

You can find more information about our sustainable practices here.

Pledging to reduce plastic use

On 1 October 2011 Wales became the first country in the UK to introduce a requirement to charge on most single-use carrier bags. The reduction in the use of plastics is an important global issue and the Assembly is committed to reducing its use of plastics. We are already making great headway with this, and have already eliminated our use of plastic coffee cups on the Assembly Estate, whilst committing to getting rid of other disposable plastics over the next 6 months wherever possible.

Senedd sustainability takeaways

  • The Senedd was awarded the BREEAM Excellent standard for its environmental credentials at design stage.
  • The Senedd is heated by a combination of ground-source heat pump and sustainably-sourced wood chip, with gas for back-up.
  • The Senedd’s ground-source heat pump includes 27 boreholes drilled 100m into the ground- they allow us to extract some warmth at the end of the summer, and reverse the process to help cool the building in the spring.
  • Rainwater harvesting means the Senedd only needs about £40 worth of mains water to be bought in each month.
  • Operation of the biomass heating system has saved more than 500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions being produced since the Senedd was built.
  • The Senedd is naturally-ventilated; the windows open themselves to change the air temperature or provide more oxygen to the rooms.
  • The Senedd’s roof cowl creates a negative air pressure- allowing fresh air to be drawn up through the building- reducing the need for any artificial cooling during warmer months.
  • Replacing a lot of the Senedd’s lights with LEDs in recent years has saved more than 50 tonnes of CO2 being produced.
  • The large amount of glazing and reflective surfaces cuts down on the need for artificial light in the Senedd. Look up when you visit the Neuadd or Oriel areas and you may well see the lights are off during the daytime.
We’ve got rid of disposable coffee cups, and are using renewable energy sources including biomass, a ground-source heat pump, and shortly switching to green tariff electricity.
We are installing electric vehicle charging points this week, and exploring the possibility of an electric pool car.
We have committed to phasing out disposable plastic wherever possible over the next 6 months, and compost all our food waste, including that from events.

Join the conversation this Earth Hour using #EarthHourWales and keep an eye out for the global switch-off at 8.30pm on Saturday 24 March.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the environmental aspects of the Assembly’s work, visit the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee pages or follow the Committee on Twitter @SeneddCCERA.

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