Strategic Approach

Impactful Outcomes

Client Empowerment

Background

FairHeat were engaged by a leading housing association in the UK to carry out a Portfolio Review for sites across the north of England.

The project encompassed 17 sites across northern England, including Chester, Derby, Sheffield, Manchester, and Nottingham. These properties, built or renovated between 1975 and 1990, shared similar infrastructure in terms of size, occupancy type, and network design. The heating systems, a combination of two and four pipe networks, provided space heating via gas boilers and domestic hot water (DHW). However, most of these systems faced significant control issues, with inefficient space heating and dangerously high DHW temperatures (greater than 60 oC) due to insufficient thermostatic controls.

Challenge

A common piece of work undertaken at FairHeat is an in-depth optimisation study that focuses on how to improve a specific heat network, typically chosen due to poor performance, frequent heat supply outages and high numbers of resident complaints compared with other sites.

However, several requests have recently been received to look not just at one site, but multiple within a client’s portfolio. Requests of this nature typically arise for a number of reasons:

  • The operator may not have undertaken performance improvements in the past, and are looking to understand where they should start.
  • A specific portfolio of sites may exist within a geographical region which does not have the same level of oversight, and less is known about their condition.
  • Performance may be so poor across the portfolio that all efforts are spent firefighting and it is difficult to know where to begin.

This request has challenged us to find ways of delivering useful recommendations and actionable improvements whilst continuing to provide good value for our clients. If all sites within a portfolio were approached as individual optimisation studies, this would be expensive, time-consuming, and unlikely to help in prioritising which of the sites should be tackled first. Furthermore, the recommendation of seemingly low-cost measures on one site can spiral to daunting amounts when rolled out across the full portfolio.

FairHeat Solution

Clients often allocate funding for overhaul and maintenance budgets several years in advance, and therefore it is critical to know which sites need to be prioritised due to the risk of imminent failure, in place of others which may perform relatively well and requires no immediate interventions.

The output of this project was therefore a concise report comparatively ranking the 17 sites based upon the following key metrics:

  • Compliance
  • Reliability
  • Resident comfort
  • Performance

Breaking down each site into these key metrics made it much easier to compare the similarities and difference of each site, not just by their overall characteristics (i.e. 2 vs 4 pipe, direct vs indirect), but also the current performance of each site and the risk that each may present to the client.

Comprehensive site reports were generated, encompassing detailed assessments of plant rooms, networks, and dwellings, inclusive of schematics, asset registers, and key recommendations from site audits.

Results

The outcome of FairHeat’s Portfolio Review was immediately impactful to the client. Prompted by the insights provided, a major retrofit was initiated at the site identified as highest risk where assets has already began to fail, and mobilisation efforts were launched. Additionally, one of the other high-risk sites successfully secured Heat Network Efficiency Scheme (HNES) funding to address the critical issues unveiled during the audit. The client is now able to prioritise which sites to address first whilst knowing that they are not overlooking glaring reliability and compliance concerns that they would have otherwise been unaware of on other sites.

FairHeat innovatively addressed the challenge of assessing multiple sites by creating a prioritised list based on compliance, reliability, resident comfort, and performance. This strategic approach allowed for a detailed yet efficient comparison of 17 sites, enabling the client to understand and assess the unique needs and performance issues of each location.

The portfolio review led to immediate and significant actions. Most notably, a major retrofit was initiated at the highest-risk site, and another high-risk site secured HNES funding to address critical issues. These actions demonstrated the practical impact of FairHeat’s recommendations and their ability to facilitate tangible improvements in heat network performance.

The comprehensive analysis and prioritisation provided by FairHeat enabled the client to make informed decisions about maintenance and improvements. This empowered them to focus their resources effectively, ensuring that they addressed the most urgent reliability and compliance concerns first, without overlooking other critical issues within their portfolio.

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