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New AI project to analyse energy output in historic Diocese of Sheffield buildings  

An innovative new project will explore ways of assessing the thermal performance of historic buildings in the Diocese of Sheffield in partnership with local company Cheribim.

Using the latest AI technology, information from environmental sensors positioned at up to 100 churches in the Diocese, will monitor trends and analyse insights on energy usage, building fabric and thermal comfort for church users. The scheme aims to measure the impact of adopting low cost, low energy methods to reduce the carbon footprint of some of our most historic and complex buildings.

Grant funder Innovate UK have provided the funding for the project, with all sensors being provided to participant churches for free. There’s strong optimism that it will have a huge positive impact, not just for our Diocese but the wider Church of England and historic buildings more generally in responding sustainably to the challenges posed by climate change.

Invitations have been sent out to churches across our Diocese, with those taking part being given the tools and guidance to track temperature and humidity in the main spaces of their buildings. The churches invited have been chosen based on the materials they are built from (mostly those with solid stone walls) and their history (mostly those pre-1919). Churches concerned about energy waste or leaks to their buildings are encouraged to volunteer for the project.

The data gathered will be used to assess the effect of factors such as heating patterns and building material. The timescale will include winter 2023 and 2024 to help inform decisions on interventions which might reduce energy consumption. Workshops are being developed to help guide participants through each stage of the process, with the aim of observing if simple, ground level fixes by on-site staff and volunteers can make a difference.

Cheribim was founded in Sheffield in 2022 by former Church Buildings Support Officer Katie Steele. It has recently grown and now employs 5 full-time members of staff to develop affordable, tech-based, people-focused solutions to historic building management and conservation. 

Cheribim Chief Heritage Officer, Amy Graham said:

“This is an exciting time for Cheribim as we support the Diocese on their pathway to Net Zero. The provision of free environmental monitoring sensors to up to 100 church buildings is a step change in terms of gathering insights about how these beautiful, historic buildings can adapt to our changing climate.

“We know that churches are not just places of worship but also sources of vital social support and companionship for thousands of people. We are inspired to use advances in AI technology to protect these important spaces, conserving heritage for the future whilst improving thermal comfort now.”