The Echo Court development is a residential scheme consisting of 116 new apartments for affordable rent, shared ownership and private sale. The scheme was included in a joint venture partnership between Origin Housing and Hill Group.

Origin Housing and Hill Group wanted to ensure clear performance targets were set and achieved for future developments featuring heat networks. This is driven by a collective desire to improve customer satisfaction and reduce heating and hot water costs. They decided to bring in independent heat specialists, FairHeat, to provide delivery support for Hill Group construction team and I-MEX (M&E contractor) ensuring that the network would be handed over with efficient performance.
FairHeat’s rigorous design, installation and commissioning reviews use industry leading processes, experiences and best practice to transform performance of heat networks. During the installation and commissioning phase, FairHeat reviewed on-site progress and supported the project team in the implementation of design, to meet the employer’s requirements. Before handing homes over to customers, FairHeat provided commissioning witnessing services, assisting site teams troubleshoot performance issues and aid with control system corrections to ensure stable heat delivery throughout all load conditions.

The project demonstrated Origin Housing and Hill Group would be able to design and deliver a reliable and low temperature heat network that consistently operates at flow/return temperatures of 60/35oC. These operation temperatures are very rarely specified and achieved in the UK. The outcome for their customers was a best-in-class scheme for low cost and low carbon heating system, with heat losses throughout all blocks registered significantly below ADE CIBSE CP1 2020 minimum requirements.

What made this collaboration so great?

The project required significant time investment and buy-in from construction teams, Hill Group ensured that allowances were made to adopt new processes despite some aspects not being part of the initial contract. Hill Group commented:

“We are proud that the positive collaboration between Hill, our Joint venture partner Origin, Fairheat and M&E contractor, I-MEX, has successfully optimised heat network performance at Echo Court. Doing so has resulted in residents having access to more affordable and efficient heating and hot water.”

Callum Kidd, Deputy Regional Director, The Hill Group

Struan Banfield, Commissioning Engineer at I-MEX, played a key role in the successful collaboration of the project, comments:

“FairHeat worked alongside Hill Group construction team and I-MEX, developing a beneficial and constructive relationship, finding the right solutions during build rather than after. This successful collaboration ensured causes of issues were identified early and rectified swiftly in line with Origin Housing’s requirements.”

Struan Banfield, Commissioning Engineer, I-MEX

As a result of these collective reviews and interventions, the heat network delivered was operating in accordance with performance requirements, with flow and return temperatures of 60/35°C (some parts of the network operating below 35°C during heat season). Based on standing losses at handover, it is estimated that FairHeat’s process has saved each resident c. £160 per year on bills and reduced the carbon emissions of the scheme by 72 tonnes of CO2 per year.

What challenges where experienced during this collaboration?

Construction projects are complex processes with many stakeholders that must interact and unite to deliver under time and budgetary pressures. Welcoming an additional third party with a role to introduce additional complexity and the need for new relationships to build quickly is a major challenge, one that requires willingness for change and an open mind to adopt new processes. Several factors enabled the team to overcome these challenges.

Origin, Hill and IMEX entered the project with an openness and clear drive to work with FairHeat, understanding the new processes being introduced. The presence of clear performance KPIs assigned at the outset was a key motivator for all involved. There was strong buy in that these would not be compromised and every effort would be made to achieve, or beat them.

FairHeat developed clear and transparent processes, documents and tools that allowed for an open dialogue with all parties to quickly understand how the quality assurance scheme would work. enabling integration of activities into build programmes meant all parties had a clear understanding of what to expect, avoiding delays and clashes that can result from poor communication and lack of integration.

There was a strong appetite to learn amongst the team. FairHeat’s expertise in heat networks can only bring results when the team responsible for delivering the systems understands how to install and commission them to a high quality. The IMEX commissioning engineers were dedicated and passionate about learning new skills in this field and the results speak for themselves.

How will the learning from this collaboration be shared and continue to have an impact within the organisations involved and more widely?

This collaboration is an exemplary project of cooperation between developer, contractor and consultant to achieve industry leading commissioned heat performance from the outset, providing residents access to affordable and efficient heating and hot water.

Deborah Johnson, Senior Project Manager at Origin Housing, comments:

“The Echo Court, Northolt Road, development was a highly collaborative project that set the blueprint of future network delivery for Origin Housing.

By optimising the design, using findings from on-site investigations and reviewing available data, FairHeat’s specialist advice enabled our project team to achieve significant energy efficiencies for the Echo Court Northolt Road scheme, resulting in one of the most efficient heat networks in the UK.

The partnership that has developed as a result of this project is a deeper understanding of how design and commissioning impacts final performance, and these lessons have already been implemented on the next Hill Group and Origin Housing joint venture, Harrow One.”

Deborah Johnson, Senior Project Manager, Origin Housing

Callum Kidd, Deputy Regional Director at The Hill Group, comments:

“We always embrace the opportunity to deliver high-performance systems and have further enhanced our ability to achieve this by engaging with Fairheat and adopting the design supplement at an early stage of our design development.”

Callum Kidd, Deputy Regional Director, The Hill Group

I-MEX have adopted the rigorous dwelling commissioning approach into their standard process. Struan Banfield, Commissioning Engineer at I-MEX, comments:

“The acceptance testing used at Echo Court was welcomed by I-MEX and it was immediately apparent that the principles behind it made sense from a number of viewpoints; as such many of the elements introduced by Fairheat have now been adopted on all our projects.”

Struan Banfield, Commissioning Engineer, I-MEX