Cornwall Food Production Unit – a beacon of sustainability

The Cornwall Food Production Unit at Barncoose has been providing high quality meals, sourced mainly from local produce, to the Royal Cornwall, St Michaels and West Cornwall Hospitals since early last year.

The Food Production Unit, built in an area of regeneration with economic, environmental and sustainable benefits at the forefront of its design, continues to develop and improve its sustainability credentials even a year on, with the introduction of a unique green energy source.

Over the last year, local LIFT (Local Improvement Finance Trust) Company and NHS infrastructure development partner, Community 1st Cornwall, has been working with Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust to install an innovative bio-fuel generator in the Food Production Unit. The generator has been developed as part of the Cornwall LIFT programme, to further support the NHS carbon reduction targets.

Supporting these environmental and sustainability credentials, the new generator works by utilising waste used cooking oil from the production of the food prepared at the facility, and also from other public sector buildings in Cornwall, to provide heat and electricity for the unit. This benefits the environment in two ways: energy is generated on the premises rather than being purchased externally; and the waste oil is utilised rather than being sent to landfill.

The generator, installed by green energy and infrastructure solutions company Green2Go on behalf of Community 1st Cornwall, provides a c85% reduction in lifecycle carbon compared with the same amount of energy provided from the National Grid, and is deemed to be the highest level of sustainable fuel by government bodies such as BERR and the Department of Transport.

As part of government environmental initiatives, all public buildings are now subject to annual surveys to monitor carbon emissions and promote carbon reduction. Following its provisional Enhanced Carbon Assessment in May 2009, the Cornwall Food Production Unit has achieved a highly coveted ‘A’ rating (a rating of between 0 and 25). This compares to a typical rating of 50 for an existing building of this type.

In addition, the Food Production Unit is deemed to be carbon negative as it exports energy back to the National Grid when not being used within the building – it is expected to export over 500,000 kwh per year.

With such amazing figures, the ‘A’ rating reinforces the Food Production Unit’s position as a model of sustainability.

As well as this new green energy source, the unit gives the NHS in Cornwall greater scope to further increase the range of locally sourced produce, allowing the development of more links with smaller, local suppliers, including organic producers, and the ability to offer more seasonal produce on hospital menus as well as reducing food miles.

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