cRRescendo Newsletter (summer 2011)

 

Milton Keynes - The Project

Two of the major elements of the project, namely the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) with private wire network and the Enhanced Building Fabric (EBF) have been completed leaving Photovoltaics (PVs) to be delivered this summer.

All three elements have evolved in a holistic design culture which promotes synergy with urban design, transportation, education, community etc. This approach to sustainable development is amply illustrated in Milton Keynes Council's Low Carbon Prospectus entitled "Milton Keynes- A Sustainable Future" which is featured later in this newsletter.

We also discuss the social evaluation survey work undertaken by Oxford University and United Sustainable Energy Agency (USEA).

Combined Heat and Power
The CHP plant and associated private wire and heat network has been running successfully for a number of years serving many commercial and residential buildings in Central Milton Keynes.
A measure of its success is the extension to serve the new Network Rail 37,790m2 headquarters building currently being developed on the former Hockey Stadium site. This provides confirmation of its cost effectiveness compared with traditional supply networks.
Purists may have difficulty with the plant being fuelled by gas but the CO2 savings are considerable when compared with conventional alternative supplies. It is intended that this situation can be improved by connecting the gas supply to the renewable gas generated from the anaerobic digestion below.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has provided funding, through its Low Carbon Infrastructure Fund, towards the addition of gas scrubbers to the proposed anaerobic digestion plant which will hopefully allow gas to be injected directly into the local gas network and the CHP supply.

The plant is being developed for Milton Keynes Council (MKC) by Renewable Power Systems (RPS) and should be in operation late spring 2012.
Partnership working of this pragmatic nature as achieved by MKC, HCA and RPS, will be pivotal in meeting carbon reduction targets.

Monitoring of the CHP plant, its networks and recipients has been undertaken by Arup and an interim report produced. This highlighted several areas where the measurement system could be improved to produce more useful outputs or explain apparent variations with expected results.
These changes are discussed below.

Data received from Thameswey, the operator, has been restricted to monthly totals for fuel, power and heat. Whilst this is useful to track general progress against cRRescendo targets it does not help in understanding how the systems are actually working, their demand for energy and how the district system responds to it.

Thameswey are making modifi cations to the metering arrangement to improve the capture of energy demand data from the residential and commercial developments and the data showing how the energy centre works in meeting that demand.

The half hourly demand profi les are important to understand the dynamics of the systems and will fi ll gaps which, once fi lled, should show the station is being run to optimise carbon emmissions and ensure value for money to customers.

Thameswey have now provided half hourly data for the commercial and residential buildings and this vast amount of data is currently being analysed. A revised report will be issued in June.

 

Enhanced Building Fabric
An enhanced building fabric specifi cation was applied to 441 apartments located in Central Milton Keynes Block C4.1 Vizion and 19,250 m2 of commercial space in Block B3.2, The Pinnacle. It is HCA's normal practice to issue a design brief with all land disposals to ensure its quality requirements are achieved.
The residential element is now fully occupied and the commercial property partially occupied.

To confirm compliance with the Concerto requirements Arup were commissioned to provide a Building Sign-off and Commissioning report which was delivered in October 2010.

In parallel with Arup's technical report, Oxford University and USEA have carried out an investigation of the residents' opinions of their new homes.
Arup confi rmed all buildings performed better than the regulatory minimum. The Concerto residential standards were based on mid floor flats and all such flats perform as expected.

Other flats all have the same improved energy specifi cation (better u values and infiltration rates) and show the same proportionate improvement on Regulatory Standards, although their energy use is higher than the mid floor flats as would be expected because of greater external wall areas.

It is important to note that other policy drivers such as the need for natural surveillance and day lighting standards can infl uence certain areas of the building such as corner units. These aid security and wellbeing rather than just environmental performance.

The report also notes the improvements in energy demand gained from such measures as water efficient fittings and energy efficient white goods.

In conclusion the report has revealed that in general, given the variability that is to be expected in construction projects, the specifications fulfilled requirements. Where on site testing has been carried out, in particular for infiltration, this confirms that the specified air tightness has been significantly exceeded.

Solar Photovoltaics

The fi nal physical element of the project involves delivery of a renewable energy component i.e. photovoltaics.
Due to the economic conditions the site intended for the installation, B4, has not been developed.
This necessitated an alternative strategy for the PV location.
Installation will now take place on the bus station; a Homes and Communities Agency owned building. It has a community based use, and the partners have been exploring ways in which some sort of community benefit can be gained from the installation, such as free or subsidised electricity for the community use as well as being able to use some of the space in the building for dissemination and education about the project.

The community work focuses upon the younger section of the community and it is hoped the link to the PVs will engender ownership of sustainability principals.
A report on future ownership, management and financial structures has been commissioned to assist with HCA's exit strategy appraisal.

In total the installation will provide 165kWp.
The original design of the bus station was undertaken in the period of "honest architecture" and the structure was expressed on the exterior of the building enabling relative ease to fi t any PV support system to the existing members without reducing the integrity of the roof water proofi ng. The new structural support system has been designed to be sympathetic to the design philosophy of the original building. Indeed the original architect was commissioned to provide advice to the design team.

The conceptual design has been completed by WYG who were appointed from HCA's consultants panel. Tender documents are prepared and now planning approval has been granted the procurement process has commenced. Subject to all organisational approvals being given installation will then take place over the summer.

Report on Social Issues
Researchers at Oxford University and USEA surveyed residents in the apartment block C4.1 to learn how they liked their new homes.
Whilst the results from residents do not give the emphasis to energy that we would have wished they are extremely valuable and offer many lessons which can only lead to improvement.
We are in the process of interviewing many of the other stakeholders eg developers to incorporate their views. A précis of the report is found below.

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
A survey of residents in the Milton Keynes, UK cRRescendo Vizion Development showed that the location of their flats is more important to them than energy effi ciency.
In November 2010, residents in the Vizion Development participated in a 24 question web survey about their satisfaction with their new home. Residents were offered an incentive, and they were invited to participate via a letter that included a brochure about the cRRescendo project. In addition, two cRRescendo representatives went onsite for one day, distributing printed surveys and answering questions. Of the 400 potential respondents, only 29 residents completed the survey (7% response rate).
The majority of respondents (89%) said they were attracted to their new apartment because of its location which is in central Milton Keynes with excellent bus and rail links. Leisure, work and commercial facilities are also easily accessible by walking and cycling adding to the sustainability of the location.

About half (44%) said they liked the building's looks. As a feature, "energy savings" claimed the lowest number of responses. Only 10% of the respondents cited energy savings as an attractive feature of their new home.
These findings are not surprising, given that the developer did not market the apartments based on their "eco" credentials.

The survey reveals that over half of the respondents were unaware that their apartment block was connected to a combined heat and power (CHP) plant (54%). A similar number (57%) were unaware that the flats were specially designed to use less heating than average and fitted with efficient lighting and appliances.

It is now current HCA policy that all new occupants should be provided with an owners manual which explains the main features of their home together with advice on how to gain maximum advantage from the systems which are included in their property.

Of the respondents who commented on the connection between their flat and the CHP, about 60% said they were happy with the arrangement. A small number of the residents were dissatisfi ed, however, commenting that "the bill is disgustingly high" and that they were "stuck with one supplier."

Despite being unaware of energy benefi ts and not attracted by energy savings, half of the respondents (50%) said that they expected to pay less than £400 per year for heating their new home. This was the lowest cost-range provided on the survey. The remaining respondents either didn't know what they expected their bills to be (31%), expected to pay less than £600 per year (19%) or skipped the question (10%).

CONCERTO projects aim to improve the 'internal comfort level' of residences. In the Milton Keynes project, survey responses suggest that the project has some thermal problems. Although most respondents (95%) feel generally comfortable, 47% disliked their heating and controls. It is unclear from the survey responses alone whether there are technical problems with heating systems in these flats, if the overall design is at fault, or if these residents could be using their system differently than it was designed to be used. The developer is liaising with the CHP provider and residents who have expressed dissatisfaction in order to achieve the improvements expected from the enhanced building specifications.

The survey results show a general satisfaction with the properties with a few areas which could be improved such as increased energy and environmental information on the property and education to ensure the most effective use of technology provided. These are excellent lessons to take forward.

The residents' interests in location and architectural design reinforces the importance of a larger urban design strategy that takes both environmental and social concerns into account. This kind of strategy is articulated in MK's low carbon prospectus discussed below.

Milton Keynes - A Sustainable Future

A Low Carbon Prospectus
Milton Keynes Council together with its partners Milton Keynes Partnership, NHBC Foundation and the Low Carbon Hub has published the Low Carbon Prospectus.

http://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/mklowcarbonliving/

This vision for a low carbon Milton Keynes includes:

  • A sustainable approach to housing, education, energy, water and transport;
  • Electrifi cation of transport, low carbon housing development, retrofi tting insulation in older properties, smart power grids, local green power generation and new waste reduction and treatment facilities;
  • Engaging local communities and partners, drawing on local expertise and capacity, including the local centres of academic excellence;
  • Achieving economic advantage for Milton Keynes and supporting the development of the green economy and jobs;
  • An integrated approach to the both rural and urban areas in Milton Keynes.

 



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