For engineers

Do you want to help your community run their buildings without wasting energy and develop new skills at the same time?

The Surefoot Effect and HeatHack are offering a new programme for communities that will help them decide what’s right for their community buildings, most of which are older and traditionally built.  We need volunteer engineers to assist them with the more technical aspects of the programme. Engineers can find their own community groups to participate, or we can help them find one in their area.

Over four two-hour sessions, the groups will learn how thermal comfort works in these difficult buildings and check whether they are using their current heating system efficiently and in line with the need to move to net zero.  Since many of these buildings are under-used, they will also think about what the right future use of their building will be, including planning a community engagement event to gather evidence of unmet community needs.  For some buildings, the right solution might be increased use that serves the community better, using grants and increased letting income for infrastructure changes that mitigate heat loss and change heating over from fossil fuels to electric.  For others, it might be localised heating that makes the users comfortable for shorter stays without attempting to warm the entire space.  Whatever kind of engineer you are, your ability to understand basic principles of heat transfer and experience of coming up with solutions in time and within budget will be of immense value to your local community. 

You can expect to spend around 40 hours over six to twelve months assisting your group with making a plan for the future of their building and documenting aspects of their building and its use that affect thermal comfort, so that heating professionals and architects will be able to serve them better. We will provide you with thermal monitoring devices and help you use them to spot any obvious inefficiencies that can be rectified cheaply in the shorter term. We will provide training for you alongside your fellow engineers in online sessions and support you throughout your role.  In return, you may learn more about energy efficiency in traditional buildings, enjoy practicing your skills on what can be a tricky problem, and will develop client-facing skills that help in a wide range of careers.

For more information, you can email us at

What past engineers have to about their volunteer experiences

During my time collaborating with HeatHack I surveyed a number of historical building, primarily churches and halls, to gain an understanding of any existing or past issues the clients had with their heating systems. This was a great experience as I was getting real life examples of how things worked (or where they didn’t).

It was interesting piecing things together to see the theory, that I was aware of, and how it actually played in practice – things don’t always line up!

Talking with clients was a valuable lesson, as it taught me that I need to listen carefully to others and understand the message they wanted to pass through. I could then use that to ask the right questions and get the information that I needed to for each one to gain a full picture of the case-study.

Alexis Hadjivassiliou

“Churches can be unwelcoming, especially if they are only heated a few times a week.  It was really interesting to think about how their sheer mass works against the way they are typically used, and to reason through whether a specific community was getting the benefit of the energy they put into their building and whether some simple changes would make the heating more efficient.  These beautiful places could be used more if they were better understood.  Contributing in my small way to making that happen was a great experience that I can recommend.”

Clara Castañeda

If you would like to approach a community building yourself, here is a printable .pdf info sheet to show to the management of the building: