Newton’s Cradle

Newton’s Cradle: November 2010

Background to the project

The project aims to demonstrate affordable measures to reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuel, particularly in listed buildings, without sacrificing comfort. A pilot scheme selected a listed building to serve as a show-case. This was the Town Hall and Museum in Newton Abbot’s Devon Square. It has the great advantage of being open to the public. The TNA energy group applied for funding in the autumn of 2009 and received a grant from the DCC Locality Budget.

Early stages

When agreement had been reached with the parties concerned, an energy assessment was carried out to find where the biggest return on investment could be made. The group had enough experience to do much of the assessment itself, with help from Town Council staff.  Electricity and gas bills were checked, the levels of consumption were established and priorities identified.

These were:

  • Insulation of loft, windows and doors
  • Installation of low energy lighting
  • Improvement of heating efficiency (radiator insulation and boiler)
  • Water saving and use of rain/grey water
  • Addition of visible energy monitoring and review of findings with staff and volunteers (to raise awareness of consumption)

Two of these items were not taken any further at this stage:

  • the boiler because it was scheduled for replacement under existing plans
  • water saving/re-use because it offered little scope for improvement

Renewable energy options were also considered, but seemed unlikely to be effective, due to the use, location and orientation of the building.

Potential suppliers were contacted as soon as funding was confirmed, so that a budget could be drawn up.


The group worked closely with the Town Hall and Museum staff throughout to make sure they were happy with the approach, priorities and timing.  We wished to obtain the best quality solutions at an affordable price and to develop a show-case solution relevant to other listed buildings in the area.

The most difficult technical investigation and decisions centred on the lighting, especially in the Museum.  The potential annual saving in this area alone was estimated at £850.  Further technical information on the project are available on request.

Local suppliers and contractors were used where possible, with some of the installation work carried out by the TNA team and Town Council staff.

Continuing Work

By November 2010 the installation was complete. An energy monitor allows users of the building to have visual feedback on their electricity consumption throughout the year. Monitoring will continue for at least a further year in order to assess the savings. Since one of the aims was to reduce energy use without loss of comfort, comments will be also sought from the staff of the building over this period.


Publicity is an important part of the work, and the energy group welcomes discussion with others seeking to reduce fossil fuel consumption.  A number of public art works are planned on the theme of energy saving.

Through press releases from the TNA group, a number of articles appeared in the local Mid Devon Advertiser as well as in Green Business supplement of the Western Morning News which helped to publicise the project and generated enquiries from local organisations.


Our experience in carrying through this project may be useful to others:

A detailed survey should be undertaken before starting any work and preferably before funding is raised. Our project changed during implementation, as a result of continuing energy assessment.

The amount of effort, especially in coordinating and recording progress, should not be underestimated.

The cost-effectiveness of any energy saving measure should be well understood before embarking on it.

People must feel positive about changes to their working environment.  Energy saving measures work best if those involved are willing to change the way they use energy.

The hardest part of the project is likely to be to sell the message to others.

The right energy assessment tool is important.

One of the spin-offs from the project has been an Energy Assessment Pack which can be used both in the home and in commercial/public buildings.