Energy efficiency upgrades are keeping dementia patients at The Birches Alzheimer centre in Dundalk, warmer this winter.

Finance and Funding

SEAI funding: €38,000

Key Achievements

  • Completed an energy audit

Identified areas of heat loss. Heating alone accounted for 70% of energy bill.

  • SEAI Communities grant

Successful recipient of the SEAI Communities grant

  • Successful upgrades

Energy upgrades included attic, roof and cavity wall insulation. They also installed an air-to-water heat pump system, and a solar PV system

  • Energy savings

The centre can now use the money saved on heat and electricity for other items in the centre

Project Description

If winter in Ireland is characterised by anything, it’s our weather. Short, cold and dark days arrive and stay longer than welcomed. And, if you’re one of the 38,000 people in Ireland living with Alzheimer’s, you’re more vulnerable to the temperature drop than most. Keeping warm is crucial to the longevity of a patient with any form of dementia and being exposed to the cold can worsen symptoms for those suffering with this debilitating disease.

Ensuring patients stay warm and avoid the chill, is a top priority for all at the Birches Alzheimer centre in Dundalk. The respite centre, which is a much-needed resource for families in the community, is an old building that makes it expensive to run and challenging to keep warm. Families of patients, staff and volunteers need to raise up to €100,000 each year just to keep the doors open!

Following an energy audit on the building early last year, it emerged that the heating bill accounted for 70% of the centre’s overall energy costs. This prompted the team to look at ways to reduce their heating energy bill, etching out their sustainable energy path. 
When Gerard Murphy, Chairman of The Birches, met with Eugene Conlon from Dunleer Sustainable Energy Community, things began to fall into place. Speaking to Eugene, Gerard immediately saw an opportunity for The Birches to reduce their monthly energy bills and embrace a more sustainable approach to their healthcare service. 

Eugene helped The Birches to avail of SEAI’s Community grant, a government grant programme supporting energy efficiency projects through capital funding, partnerships and technical support.  The Birches received €38,000 from SEAI towards a number of energy efficiency upgrades in the centre.
Energy upgrades funded through SEAI included attic, roof and cavity wall insulation, an essential first step for cold buildings like The Birches. They also installed an air-to-water heat pump system, and a solar PV system. Other upgrades at the centre included new windows, doors and a sensory garden that allows patients to enjoy a variety of sensory experiences. 

The aim of the energy upgrades was to make this building “more energy efficient, warmer, safer, user friendly and to include renewable energy solutions that delivered on the needs of the client and contributed to delivering on our national climate change objectives,” says Eugene Conlon, the man praised with making it happen.The centre can now use the money saved on heat and electricity for other items in the centre. It will also reduce the amount they need to fundraise each year. 

Eugene hopes the upgrades will inspire other health care facilities to take the initiative on their own sustainable journey. 
Eilish Clarke is a volunteer at the centre and one of the many family members who have devoted their time to caring for a loved one. The Birches was the main source of support for Eilish and her two daughters while Kevin was still alive.“The upgrades make a huge difference and I can see it every day I’m there.  Alzheimer patients feel the cold even in summer so we were constantly putting extra layers on them to keep warm. You don’t feel the cold now and the bills should reduce massively.” The Birches Alzheimers Centre is an example of the wonderful things that can be achieved when a community comes together for the greater good. The centre provides dignity, love, care and support to patients and their relatives, something which everyone deserves.