By James Caspell, Neighbourhood Director, and Yasmin Bakali, Assistant Project Manager
Lancaster West Neighbourhood Team (LWNT) was set up in 2017 following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, to work in partnership with residents on the estate to improve housing services.
Following the tragedy, the Lancaster West Estate (LWE) is undergoing a comprehensive refurbishment to deliver on a promise by all levels of government that it will become a model social housing estate for the 21st century, that’s also 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.
Recent work looking into the council’s greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory shows that 57% of its emissions are from council-owned housing.
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.
Most homes are too cold in summer and too warm in winter, so resident priorities for the refurbishment involve fabric improvements, with windows and boilers a top priority for many blocks.
As a first step towards this goal, the team recently delivered the first low-energy council home in the borough – a retrofit 100m from Grenfell Tower.
It’s a two-storey, three-bedroom house with a large roof space, originally built in 1980. The house is semi-detached, with a smaller property adjoining it to the south-west. It has a large garden area around three sides, with off-street parking.
We installed services that will maximise energy efficiency to financially benefit the residents, reducing energy costs, as well as maximising safety in the home by removing gas and mitigating risks of fire.
To understand the existing building, the current performance, and its problems, LWNT conducted a variety of feasibility studies. These reports set out how the existing building was losing heat and a range of methods for reducing heat loss. ECD architects proposed that the heat demand could be reduced from around 300kWh/m2/year to 66kWh/m2/year.
The elements were upgraded to improve the U values (a measurement of heat transfer), airtightness, and thermal comfort of the home, with fire safety and energy efficiency as the key drivers.
An MVHR has been installed to reduce heat loss through air while ensuring fresh air supply to the property. This will ensure zero condensation, as well as reducing dust and pollen in the home.
An A+++ air source heat pump (ASHP) will supply all heating and hot water requirements. This also means that it can now be a gas free home! In addition, the Madoka Heating control system has been installed which will be an excellent way to control the heating and monitor the usage.
Sixteen solar panels have been installed on the roof to decrease electricity use, significantly reducing the energy bills. The glass-on-glass modules are A1 fire rated (i.e. non-combustible) which maximises fire resistance, making it the safest option and more energy efficient. A battery system has been installed so electricity can be stored and used at a later date, ensuring there will always be a backup.
Triple-glazed windows have been installed to reduce the energy demand by 15kWh/m2 year compared to double glazing – an annual cost saving of around £70 for the resident. We have also included a triple-glazed skylight in the stairwell to harness natural lighting in the property, making it bright and airy.
Upgrading the internal insulation to A1 rated non-combustible materials in the walls, floors, and roof meant that we could create a really warm and comfortable environment even at lower temperatures, to the highest safety.
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 can reduce the overall energy demand by 24 kWh/m2 year and can give an annual saving of £113.
New fire-resistant doors have been installed both internally and externally to reduce heat loss and improve safety. This could reduce the energy demand by 6kWh/m2 year and can give an annual cost saving of £28.
Another monitoring device is the Energy Manager. This measures, controls, and visualises all processes of your solar system and electric consumers. With solar power, battery modules, and an energy manager you can become 80% self-sufficient in summer months and minimise your electrical bills. Both the Energy Manager and Madoka heating control demonstrate how we’ve made this a user-friendly home and will help improve fuel poverty for the residents.
The installation of LED lights will not only create a modern-style home but also act as an energy saving option which will improve the EPC rating of the property.
The opportunity to improve the garden allowed LWNT to create an eco-friendly space that not only contains an electric car charging point but also a gutterless water butt system, hotbin composter, and veg and herbs trugs.
Both the internal and external environment work together to reflect one joint sustainable system, in the home and the garden.
To evaluate performance, we’ve conducted thermal imaging, energy performance tests, and pre/post EPCs. The results highlight that the roof, west elevation, windows, and doors have a great thermal performance compared to the neighbouring property. We did, however, find the U-values weren’t as predicted but, again, we see this as a positive as it will only help us to create exceptional homes moving forward!
Achieving 89 (B) on our EPC (compared to a D for similar properties in Verity Close) has now pushed LWNT to work towards retrofitting A-rated properties, building better quality homes well beyond regulatory minimums.
One of the main aims of this property was to produce a live pilot for Verity Close residents, as well as wider Lancaster West. We’re constantly learning from this property, and it’s driving decisions on materials and strategy for other homes.
Monitoring equipment and smart technology in the home mean that with time we can gather data to see what services are saving the most energy and money for the residents. Moving forward, we aim to retrofit the many buildings across the estate with our design teams and residents to achieve our carbon neutral goals.
The refurbishment of our pilot property at Verity Close is predicted to ensure annual cost savings of over £1,000 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’re 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.
This project not only provides a family with a sustainable, gas-free property that encourages low carbon living but serves as a model for low-energy retrofits for the wider estate. From monitoring this project, we can create an exemplar approach to delivering sustainable homes to existing properties and encourage a circular economy across the LWE, building better quality homes beyond building regulation standards.
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, the Green Homes Grant programme, and the EU’s MustBeZero programme.
Links to relevant documents:
Our Sustainability page on our website:
Details about our first low energy home:
360-degree tour of LWE’s first low-energy home: