Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea: Lancaster West Refurbishment & Notting Dale Heat Network

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Lancaster West Neighbourhood Team and residents of the Lancaster West Estate (LWE) are co-designing and delivering a refurbishment programme that will transform it into a model 21st century estate that is carbon-neutral by 2030. This programme will include fabric-first deep retrofits of all 795 homes on the estate, the development of a new low-carbon heat network, and the development of increased and improved green spaces to create a garden estate in the heart of London.

The challenge

The Lancaster West Neighbourhood Team (LWNT) was established in 2018, in the wake of the Grenfell Tragedy, to provide a neighbourhood management services for the estate.

One of the key objectives is to co-design and deliver a comprehensive refurbishment to transform Lancaster West into a model 21st century estate. In January 2020, a commitment was added to transform the estate to becoming net zero-carbon by 2030, putting a green recovery at the heart of Grenfell recovery.

This is in line with Kensington and Chelsea Council’s targets for the council to become net-zero carbon by 2030, and for the borough to become net-zero carbon by 2040. Recent work looking into the council’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory shows that 57% of the council’s GHG emissions are from council-owned housing. Nationally, retrofitting needs to be taking place on a mass scale to meet the Government’s target to become net-zero by 2050.

75.5% of homes on Lancaster West Estate have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of D or below, and data suggests that around 10% of households on LWE suffer from fuel poverty.

Homes are often too warm in summer and too cold in winter, so resident priorities for the refurbishment involve fabric improvements to improve thermal comfort, with windows and heating systems a top priority for many blocks.

The solution

Sustainability is at the heart of the refurbishment programme for Lancaster West, and a suite of KPIs has been developed to ensure that what gets measured is what gets done.

A whole-house fabric-first approach is being taken to retrofitting homes, alongside the development of a new low-carbon heat network for the estate, which could later be extended to provide zero-carbon heat to homes across the wider ward of Notting Dale.

LWNT have worked with experts including the GLA-led Retrofit Accelerator Programme to undertake feasibility for the mass retrofit and heat networks project. Additional funding has also been secured to deliver works, including through the Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator, Green Homes Grant programme, and the EU’s MustBeZero programme.

LWNT and LWE residents are working together to jointly agree and finalise designs for the refurbishment. These designs will include the installation of triple glazed windows for every home and high-quality A1 non-combustible insulation in walls, roofs, and floors, while Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery units will be installed in homes to help regulate heat and improve ventilation. Alongside measures to improve the energy efficiency of homes, opportunities to improve biodiversity and increase the supply of low carbon heat are also being explored. Bio Solar green roofs with solar panels are currently planned for 3 blocks, with the potential for more.

The Notting Dale Heat Network will provide heat to homes on the Lancaster West estate and eventually the wider borough. Lancaster West will see the replacement of two existing and ageing gas-powered communal heating systems with a large-scale Air Source Heat Pump supplemented by a Thermal store, Solar PV and optimized using smart technology. In addition, we are investigating the possibility of sewer source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps to provide a mix of renewables. The core scheme will connect homes, a school, Leisure Centre, and other surrounding buildings and will expand to give economies of scale.

The borough’s first low-energy pilot home has been completed on the estate and is the first to generate its own green power and heat (through solar PV and an air source heat pump).

RBKC’s First Low Energy Home: Verity Close

Working towards becoming a carbon neutral estate, we have taken a ‘whole house’ approach to producing an energy efficient home in Verity Close. Working with ECD Architects, our aims were to improve the energy efficiency and significantly reduce energy bills for the resident.

To achieve this, many elements have been upgraded to improve the U values, airtightness, and thermal comfort of the home, with fire safety and energy efficiency as the key drivers. Upgrading the insulation to A1 and A2-rated non-combustible materials in the walls, floors and roof meant that we could create a warm and comfortable environment even at lower temperatures, to the highest safety. New doors have been installed both internally and externally to reduce heat loss and ensure we have the best sustainable and comfortable environment for the resident.

The opportunity to include a carefully installed airtightness layer meant that we had the ability to invest into many sustainable, low-energy products to improve the home. This included a Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery system (MVHR), An A+++ Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) and 16 solar panels with a battery system and energy manager for control. In addition, the windows have now been upgraded to triple glazed, and the installation of LED lights enhance the energy saving goals for the home. It not only created a modern interior but also improves the EPC rating of the property.

The opportunity to renovate the drive and garden area allowed LWNT to create an eco-friendly space that not only contains an electric car charging point but also a gutter less water butt system, hot bin composter and veg and herbs trugs to go fruit, veg and herbs hyper-locally. Both the internal and external environment work together to reflect one joint sustainable system.

The impact

  • The refurbishment of our pilot property at Verity Close is predicted to ensure annual cost savings of over £1000 to the residents. If the same approach was taken across Lancaster West Estate, this would deliver up to £500k per year for our residents.
  • The approach we are taking will reducing carbon emission from homes and the estate, tackling climate change as more efficient homes need less energy to power them, and green energy sources have a lower environmental impact.
  • Improves thermal comfort of homes and reduces issues like mould, damp, and condensation, with subsequent benefits for health and wellbeing.
  • Tackles fuel poverty by lowering the amount of energy needed to heat homes and guarding against increases in prices of fossil fuels.
  • Improves the quality of homes and future-proofs them.
  • Reduces long term maintenance needs and costs.

How is the new approach being sustained?

Co-design is central to this programme and ensures that residents are fully informed of all options and involved in making decisions for the refurbishment at every stage.

LWNT are also working to develop a Green Skills Academy, with a range of green training opportunities available for Council staff and RBKC residents, as well as contractors. This will help support the green supply chain and upskill residents and team members in important green skills.

The Lancaster West repairs’ team have also been trained in Pulse airtightness testing by Build Test Solutions, meaning these tests can now be delivered in-house, while LWNT project managers have been supported to complete Retrofit Coordinator training. Training includes a mix of face-to-face sessions, webinars, and use of YouTube and Instagram to share training videos and tips.

Overall, this refurbishment will kickstart our ambition to make our estate carbon neutral by 2030 and enable us to share our knowledge with the rest of the UK. It will also support a green economic recovery from the pandemic by bringing a range of green jobs to the area, so that this investment and project becomes beneficial for the whole of North Kensington too.

Lessons learned

Our first low energy home on Verity Close was a pilot property, and a key objective of the project was to learn lessons for the wider refurbishment of Lancaster West. Lessons learnt include:

  • Importance of ensuring a full understanding of the building before starting work.
  • Pilot elements and appliances and learn how they perform before scaling up.
  • Close oversight of works is crucial to ensure that details that will later be hidden are built properly.  This is particularly important where airtightness is concerned.
  • Using non-combustible products limits the available systems, potentially adding cost and time, which needs to be factored in to ensure high levels of safety and quality. However, there need not be a trade-off between energy performance and fire safety – it just takes closer attention not detail.
  • Internal wall insulation can be very invasive – while acceptable in a vacant property this will not be the right solution everywhere in a retrofit context.
  • To consider a ductwork system to be designed and installed by one company to ensure reliability and compliance.
  • A deep retrofit will take longer than a standard refurbishment and using products that are new to the team may take even longer.
  • To decide if we want the property to be EnerPHit certified first as it would impact the decisions and logging process.
  • If the property is to be EnerPHit, to ensure the PHPP (Passive House Planning Package) model is reflective for the required data at the outset
  • U values may be higher than expected and therefore performance slightly worse than planned.
  • Achieving an “A” EPC rating would require a solar water system which would need to be considered at a very early stage.
  • Use of smart technology to smooth demand of energy is key to a low carbon heat network.
  • Investigating sewer as a source of heat requires strong partnership working with sector leading organisations.
  • Agility is needed within programme plans to deliver value and trust to customers quickly and build momentum within a project.