Canal cooling

GlaxoSmithKline’s canal-side global headquarters in west London will benefit from a novel cooling scheme that uses canal water, heat exchangers and a chiller as an alternative to air conditioners.


The aim of the new scheme, which the company unveiled with British Waterways, is to reduce GSK’s head office’s carbon dioxide emissions by 920 tonnes per annum and lower its energy bills.


As guardians of 2,200 miles of canals and rivers across the UK, British Waterways estimates that a further 1,000 waterside businesses nationwide could follow the company’s lead by using canal water for heating or cooling.


This would result in annual energy savings of £100m and reductions in carbon dioxide emissions of approximately one million tonnes, the equivalent to 400,000 family sized cars being taken off the roads.


Income that British Waterways generates from the initiative will be reinvested into looking after the nation’s canal network.


Tony Hales, British Waterways’ chairman, said: ‘A legacy of their industrial past, our waterways pass alongside thousands of waterside organisations seeking greener ways of doing business.


‘GSK is leading the way as the first FTSE 100 company to realise the benefits of using its canal-side location to lower energy bills and reduce impact on the environment.’


The initiative in west London replaces a traditional air conditioning system and uses recyclable water from the GrandUnionCanal to primarily cool GSK’s computer data centre via heat exchangers and a water-cooled chiller.


Because this returns the water to the canal slightly warmer, it required an environmental analysis and consent from the Environment Agency.


Duncan Learmouth, senior vice president of corporate communications and global community partnerships, said: ‘As well as making good business sense with a five-year payback of more than £100,000 of annual energy savings, the Grand Union Canal project is also one of our global sustainability initiatives that demonstrate our commitment to reducing GSK’s impact on the environment.’


In addition to GSK, organisations using canal water to heat and cool their waterside buildings include a university, shopping centre and hotel.


British Waterways estimates a further 1,000 businesses alongside its urban waterways could also harness the opportunity, primarily large offices that use considerable amounts of energy cooling their buildings as a result of the large amounts of heat generated by computers and lighting.