Shaun Mansbridge explains how a West Midlands council used a district heating system to greatly improve comfort levels for its residents, while also bringing a number of other benefits.
When Dudley Council opted to refurbish its Holloway Court residential development in Halesowen, West Midlands, improving comfort levels for residents was paramount. Key to its delivery of an enhanced living space was a district heating system, which would bring with it a whole host of benefits for the council and residents alike.
Holloway Court is a multiresidential housing with care scheme, comprising 48 apartments. Owing to the ageing building and lack of bathing facilities in each dwelling, Dudley Council took the decision to invest in an extensive refurbishment of the entire development, with the ultimate aim of eradicating a reliance on shared bathrooms. A significant element of the refurbishment project saw Dudley Council install a new heating system throughout the development, to ensure residents’ comfort levels could be maintained all year round. Therefurbishment would not only give the typical 1960’s apartment block a new lease of life, but would also allow the council to promote energy efficiency at the same time.
Aesthetics were important to the project so residents could feel at home with the heating system
Putting comfort first
Councillor Les Jones, cabinet member for housing, commented: “One of the main reasons for the refurbishment at Holloway Court was that tenants had to use communal bathrooms. We wanted to make things much more comfortable and practical for our residents, which is why we took the decision to install a wet room within each property. We also took the opportunity to overhaul the outdated heating system; replacing the main boilers as well as the complete pipework.”
Before long, Housing Services at Dudley Council had considered the huge opportunity overhauling the heating system would bring with it – particularly given the opening it created for the installation of heat interface units (HIUs) rather than individual gas boilers. This led to the organisation forming a working partnership with BoschCommercial and Industrial Heating.
Mike Stockle, project manager at Cannock-based design and build contractors Jessup Brothers, says: “The new heating system takes the form of a district heating scheme with two very large boilers located on the third floor of the building, and an individual HIU installed in each one of the building’s 48 apartments.
“Being able to monitor ongoing energy usage was important to Dudley Council, as well as the ability to give its residents full control of their own heating and hot water, which is something they didn’t have before. This prompted us to install a network of Bosch Commercial and Industrial HIUs. We could then meet both of those requirements over the long-term.”
Each HIU comprises of two heat exchangers, one for providing instant domestic hot water (DHW) at a regulated temperature and the second for space heating within the property. The unit operates indirectly, so the primary heating circuit is hydraulically separated from the property space heating by a plate heat exchanger and operates only when DHW or space heating is required.
Thanks to the metering display integrated within each unit, the council is able to monitor individual energy usage for each tenant. This in turn allows checks to be made to ensure they have been using their heating and maintaining a comfortable living environment, which is an important part of monitoring their wellbeing.
Style and substance
While the performance of each HIU was always an importantfactor, the layout of Holloway Court’s new apartments gave rise to another important consideration – how each unit would look.
“Through consultation with Dudley Council, we opted to install the Greenstar HIU on the basis that it is aesthetically pleasing,” Councillor Jones comments: “This was important for us as we were keen not to Shaun Mansbridge add clutter to a small storage cupboard by installing a heating unit within each one. Instead, we took the decision to install each HIU in the apartment’s kitchen area, where it could be accessed easily and would always be on show – making it all the moreimportant that the unit looks good on the wall.”
Given the extensive nature of the refurbishment project, it was vital that the contractor appointed to carry out the installation work for the council could do so efficiently, and without causing any delays to the heating being switched back on upon the residents moving back into their new apartments. Thankfully, both first and second fixes were straightforward, according to Dean Robins, supervisor at Stourbridge-based RHF Heating. He comments: “The work carried out was as simple as a first-fix to all radiator points and hot water points, before each HIU was mounted on the wall and piped up to the system. The first fix stage took around a day for each flat, with the second fix only taking two hours or so.
“The installation was a challenge in the sense that we were fitting an interface unit we’d never used before, but we attended a training course at Worcester Bosch Group and had the installation process demonstrated in detail, which was a big help when we came to fitting them ourselves.”
With another similar network of HIUs having been installed at Holloway Court’s sister development, Margaret Vine Court, Dudley Council now has two similar projects to monitor and compare in order to establish the potential of this type of system for other residential properties across the council’s housing stock.
Mike Stockle concludes: “We firmly believe that heat networks are the way forward for communal residencies like Holloway Court. Not only do they eliminate the ‘no access’ problems housing providers can often experience, but they also give tenants the ability to see the energy they are using, which is very important from both a transparency and a long-term sustainability point of view.”
Shaun Mansbridge is business development director at Bosch Commercial and Industrial