HeatHack lets the science-minded of all persuasions loose on a very interesting question: how can we make Edinburgh’s church halls, worship spaces, and community centres more comfortable on less energy use? These important community spaces are difficult to move to Net Zero – but countless community groups rely on them. We have two goals: helping property managers and building users understand how heating and heat loss in these spaces work now and could work in the future, and collecting the data that energy efficiency consultants and conservation architects need to be confident about how to retrofit them.
Many of our activities mix students with the local community. We:
- share our experiences with these difficult buildings and supervise students interested in taking a detailed look at some aspect of the problem. This has included a series of Sustainable Energy Systems Masters in Engineering students working on thermal modelling techniques. It has also included a few Informatics undergraduates students interested in influencing peoples’ energy behaviours or in teaching about thermal comfort.
- run exploration events to study heat loss and heating systems in real buildings that bring together students with people from the local community.
- teach students about instrumentation by having them build low cost versions of the kind of equipment needed for understanding these spaces, like temperature and relative humidity sensor networks, black globe thermometers, and omnidirectional anemometry loggers.
Our community volunteers provide software and electronics expertise and use the equipment students have built to help individual building operators find efficiencies in how to run their heating, diagnose problems, and snag new heating installations.
HeatHack initially started with a grant from Scientists in Congregations Scotland to local churches – City of Edinburgh Methodist Church with support from volunteers at Christ Church Morningside. The grants were given to explore the interface between contemporary faith and science, and seeks to foster a deeper and better-informed conversation between scientists, clergy and congregations. Scientists in Congregations was funded by the John Templeton Foundation. We are grateful for their support. Via a previous University of Edinburgh initiative, we also have access to a larger pool of equipment and expertise than would be possible on our charity funding. This includes equipment bought by the School of Informatics specifically to help HeatHack grow faster and interest students from any of Edinburgh’s educational institutions, and access to commercial instrumentation such as a thermal imaging camera, USB data loggers, and duct anemometers purchased by the School of Engineering. We thank them for this support, and look forward to welcoming all who come to join the fun.