The £18 million Footprint Project, which aims to preserve and extend the Abbey, took a significant step forward last year when an area of the North Aisle was repaired and a trial underfloor heating system was installed.

Students from our Physics Department were invited by the Abbey, B&NES Council and engineers Buro Happold, to help design a sustainable underfloor heating system which will be fuelled by natural themal water currently running unused into the River Avon.

Four final year students replicated a section of the Abbey’s stone floor and new underfloor heating system in laboratory conditions, and conducted a feasibility study into the efficiency of the scheme. In order to do this, the students tested the water temperature against seven different floor types of varying materials and thickness. The results of these trials were written up in a report which is now being used to help in the final design of the system.

If successfully applied, the new underfloor heating system will reduce energy costs as well as carbon emissions for the Abbey and surrounding buildings as part of a joint project with B&NES Council.

Charles Curnock, Footprint Project Director at Bath Abbey, said: “This is a well managed and well considered project that will be seriously useful in helping us design the new floor at the Abbey. We’d be delighted to work with others in the University on other projects.”

Dr Fran Laughton, Director of Teaching and Resources at our Department of Physics, said: “Being involved in the Footprint project has been a fantastic opportunity for our students to put their physics and mathematics into practice, and to develop a wide range of transferable skills, including team-working, communication, problem-solving and project management. It’s been a real pleasure to work with the team at Bath Abbey.”

Mark Williams, Principal Building Control Surveyor, B&NES, said: “The group were a credit to the University and a pleasure to work with. They demonstrated a high level of commitment, reliability, knowledge and enthusiasm, which they have backed up with some very useful and innovative work.”

Steffan Goold, final year Mathematics & Physics student, said: “Working with Bath Abbey has been extremely enjoyable but hugely challenging, given the time constraints which we faced. I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to following the developments of the project in the months ahead."