Subscribing to our award-winning Hub enables readers to receive regular emails with the top articles most likely to interest them

Chester Zoo – A sustainable home

I’m on the train writing this Hub article as a travel back from a wonderful morning at Chester Zoo.

Everyone thought I was having a day off and taking my kids for a day out, but I was actually there to support and promote Mitsubishi Electric’s incredible, perhaps surprising, partnership with Chester Zoo. Why surprising?

Well, for many years I’ve been a very proud brand ambassador for Mitsubishi Electric Ecodan in relation to Air Source Heat Pumps for RESIDENTIAL properties.

This is all about trying to raise awareness with the public, builders, installers, housing associations and developers about the benefits of providing clean and green heating and hot water solutions for UK HOMES.

But, Mitsubishi Electric has never asked me to promote sustainable heating solutions for an animal or an insect’s home before.

Today was an absolute first, but I loved it!

I’m sure they will be asking their parents why they are still using gas or oil to heat their home.

George Clarke George Clarke Architect, writer, TV presenter and Ecodan Ambassador

Always building sustainably

Chester Zoo’s founder, George Mottershead coined the motto ‘Always Building’. What a fantastic phrase!

The zoo has continued with this philosophy through to the present day, but I suppose their motto would now be something like ‘Always Building Sustainably’ because their buildings are undergoing a radical transformation.

Their challenge is not only for any new buildings they create to be as ecological as possible, but they also face the more complicated challenge of making their large number existing buildings as ecological as possible with an ecological ‘retrofit’ programme.

The zoo has ambitious plans to dramatically reduce their existing buildings’ carbon emissions by 2030 and their long-term, strategic partnership began with addressing the heating systems for the Rhino House and the Butterfly House.

They were the main purpose of my visit as I was keen to see how the partnership between the Zoo and Mitsubishi Electric was going.

Meet the team

Dave Kinsley, Chris Newman, George Clarke, Jen Kelly, Dan Smith

1 4
Previous Next
1281 Chester Zoo All v2

Baby Lumi was recently born at the zoo

2 4
Previous Next
1281 Chester Zoo Baby Rhino

George Clarke was interviewed by the Daily Express in front of the rhinos.

3 4
Previous Next
1281 Chester Zoo GC Express

The rhino house has big, open, rhino-sized doora

4 4
Previous Next
1281 Chester Zoo Rhino House

A demanding client

Rhino’s and Butterflies require very specific humidity temperatures to thrive in their environment, but rather than burning expensive oil to heat their homes (which is what the zoo used previously) the team at Mitsubishi Electric has carefully designed and installed a new and innovative series of air source heat pump systems to provide a more sustainable heating solution for both buildings.

A project like this is not easy. Animals and insects are obviously very unique clients.

You need to be very careful where you position the ASHP units, pipes and grills; particularly for the Rhino’s who are very big, very heavy and spend time both inside and outside of their homes.

This means the large doors of their home are regularly open. Not ideal for keeping the heat they need indoors.

And in a butterfly house you’d be amazed how well the butterflies can find the smallest gaps and you don’t want them to be trapped or injured by any of the heat pump kit.

The Mitsubishi Electric designers and installers had to be very aware of and sensitive to the unique requirements of their environments and as you can imagine this required an enormous amount of very close collaboration between the design team and the amazing Chester Zoo team to get the conditions absolutely right.


Cost-effective heat pumps

It’s also worth mentioning that the cost of heating quite often vast spaces for animals is an enormous expense for the zoo. Chester Zoo is not only a place for conservation, but it is also a registered charity employing hundreds of staff.

They need to be financially efficient and with the cost of fossil fuels, particularly oil, going through the rhino roof, the zoo had to take a long-term view on the way they heat their buildings.

The heat pumps the Mitsubishi Electric team have installed offer a very cost-effective heating solution in the long run, which will reduce their energy bills over time.

Getting in early

Chester Zoo is also a very important place for education. I was blown away by how many school children came through the entrance gates just on the one day I visited.

There were hundreds and hundreds off schoolkids, along with their teachers, enjoying their Chester Zoo adventure.

What is fantastic is that the zoo provides tonnes of very accessible information about how green and sustainable they are throughout their vast site.

The zoo is constantly reminding them about the importance of being green.

So, when those kids hear the stories about how the homes of the butterflies and the home of the rhinos are heated using the very best in clean, green and sustainable heat pump technology, I’m sure they will be going home to their parents asking why their own homes are still being heated using gas or oil.

Generational change is absolutely essential on our journey to carbon net zero and Chester Zoo, in their partnership with Mitsubishi Electric, are making that change happen.

Oh…And if you’ve never been to Chester Zoo you HAVE to go.

It is truly amazing…no matter what age you are!

I can’t wait to go back myself!

George Clarke is an architect, writer, TV presenter and Ecodan Ambassador