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Boiler Efficiency Device Wins CIOB Innovation Award

A simple but innovative device that removes air from water-based heating systems (thereby lowering energy usage by 15 to 30 percent) took one of three main prizes in the CIOB’s International Innovation and Research Awards.

The inventors of the Oxypod, which works on both domestic and commercial systems, received an award of £2,000 in the Innovation Achievers category. A BIM project from Loughborough University won the Innovation in Education and Training category while the Utterberry, a wireless device that senses structures, received the top prize in the Digital Innovation category.

Stanley Whetstone, a heating engineer, invented the egg-shaped Oxypod with help from Bob Harris MCIOB, a builder and lecturer. The patent is shared with a fuel-poverty charity located in the North East.

According to the Oxypod website, trapped air creates bubbles that line radiators and pipes, creating a thermal barrier. These bubbles also elevate surface friction, which has a negative effect on the flow of water through the pipes and radiators. This causes cold spots in radiators, making it necessary to bleed air out of them regularly.

The website explains that ‘bleeding’ the radiators typically results in the boiler operating at a higher than normal temperature, resulting in higher bills due to increased energy usage, as well as greater wear and tear on the boiler itself.

The Goodwin Development Trust has installed the Oxypod on a trial basis in the Hull area with great success, and has now partnered with 21st Century Eco Energy, a sustainable products company, to boost production, distribution, and marketing.

There has also been some involvement from Hull University, which has created computer models of the system necessary to obtain international patents.

A 21st Century Eco Energy spokesperson said that 220 field trials had been completed, and now the Oxypod is being subjected to more laboratory testing prior to a general launch.

The representative stated that the inventors had come up with the concept of the Oxypod years ago to deal with the problem of dissolved air in heating systems. Solving the issue, as it turned out, also reduced maintenance costs as the systems run more efficiently.

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The Oxypod can be installed in any closed-loop system. The domestic version has been installed in locations with up to forty-four radiators in place.

Another winner was the Utterberry device, which was invented by a University of Cambridge student and been used by Crossrail to monitor structural shifts in underground passages between shafts.

Dr Robby Soetanto from Loughborough University also took home a prize for his work on a BIM project that educates future building professionals on working in a BIM environment.

This year’s awards attracted nearly 200 entries from 17 countries. A panel of judges decided on the shortlist for each category, and then invited the finalists to present their concepts and participate in a Q&A.

A research paper award was won by a Ph.D from the University of Western Sydney, Australia, who wrote about the effect of safety investments on building projects. Eileen Chin, a student at the National University of Singapore, won the undergraduate dissertation award for her paper on risk identification and allocation.

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