Marsh Farm Estate, Luton

Energy Improvement Measures at Marsh Farm Estate in Luton

Homes in the Penhill and Leabank Towers in Luton are to be transformed with state of the art energy efficient technology, including roof top solar panels, LED lights and new insulation as part of a multi million pound project to regenerate the 14 storey high rise blocks at the Marsh Farm Estate.

The project, named RENEW, is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, which invests in improving the infrastructure and services of underdeveloped areas and aligns with ENGIE’s priorities to ‘deliver low carbon homes with decarbonised thermal solutions.’

Key features

Challenges

Having been originally scheduled to commence in 2017, the project was put on hold by Luton Borough Council following the fire at Grenfell Tower, to allow them to fully explore their plans for cladding the blocks at Marsh Farm. As part of their review and tenant consultation process, Luton arranged for the cladding manufacturer to produce a sample of the proposed cladding and commissioned Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service to carry out fire tests. They set up a rig to carry out the British Standard Fire Performance Test (BS8414) for external cladding systems at their ‘Fire House’ in Bedford on behalf of Luton Borough Council and videoed the tests taking place. With the tests generating more than five million watts of heat and ceiling temperatures reaching that of a typical building fire at 580°C, the panels remained intact and did not contribute to the fire. The results of the test, which at 24 minutes lasted for 60% longer than a standard BS8414 test, were shared publicly. Once the rainscreen cladding was approved, ENGIE then needed to determine and guarantee the structural integrity of the tower blocks to support the new cladding system. The age of the towers and the building methods used at the time of their construction presented potential issues, such as excess sulphate and the possible erosion of reinforced steels due to them being too close to the concrete surface. As a result, ENGIE commissioned structural engineers to carry out a series of tests, including carbonation testing, hammer testing and wind load testing. This resulted in a delay to the original deadline but ENGIE is committed to working diligently, following regulations and confidently assuring a safe building on completion.

Following the tests, necessary concrete repairs were carried out before the erection of the cladding system rails.

Outcome

A notable success of the project is the excellent communication between ENGIE and the local community. The site has a Resident Liaison Officer dedicated full time to the project, which has been pivotal to our success in accessing tenants’ properties to undertake works. ENGIE has been able to respond quickly and positively to any issues raised on  a daily basis and tenants receive updates on the progress and key stages of the project via regular newsletters and a custom-built microsite. The contract is also supported by ENGIE’s bespoke Social Value Strategy for Luton, with Community Impact Manager, Mark Bush, working closely with local schools and community services to deliver a package of social value initiatives. 

Site safety assemblies have been delivered to more than 200 pupils from neighbouring Waulud Primary School, while a donation of child sized,  personalised PPE clothing and toy tool boxes to the Gill Blowers Nursery, located in the ground floor of Leabank, was greatly received as a resource to support the children’s experiential learning through role play. 

Luton Borough Council has also fully engaged residents throughout; undertaking a further consultation across both blocks following the materials testing, in February 2018. This transparency and open dialogue have been pivotal to ensuring successful delivery.

The contract, scheduled to be completed by Autumn 2019, will significantly improve the aesthetic of the buildings and the estate, whilst delivering increased thermal performance. 

By installing the new insulation and solid steel rainscreen cladding, homes will benefit from greater heat retention, but this can, in turn, result in condensation being generated. To compensate for this, ENGIE has installed ‘heatSava’ heat recovery ventilation units in the kitchen of each of the 231 flats within the blocks. HeatSava units are regulated by a thermostat and intelligently sense changes in ambient temperature and moisture and draw steam and condensation (as well as odours) from the home, reducing humidity levels and providing year round good indoor air quality. The advantage of the heatSava system over standard extractors is the environmental benefits they bring through their ability to retain lost heat. The internal high efficiency tubular heat exchange cell enables the air to cyclone around the central barrel, like a corkscrew. At the same time, fresh air from outside is supplied via tubes, collecting up to 75% of extracted heat before returning it to the room.

On completion, this innovative solution, combined with better insulation, double-glazed communal windows and replacing all lighting with energy efficient LED bulbs will deliver an average EPC rating improvement of +4 SAP points per property and can be expected to save residents more than £80 per year on their energy costs.

Base level energy usage surveys have been carried out with residents in all homes and will be carried out again once the new measures have been installed. These survey results will provide evidence of the successful impact of the improvement works and support Luton in moving forward with their aim to tackle fuel poverty in the borough.

In harmony with ENGIE’s drive to be the world leader in the Transition to Zero Carbon, the improvements will help Luton Borough Council to generate CO2 emissions savings of 115,340 kg CO2/year and support their progress towards achieving ambitious government targets to reduce carbon emissions by 57% by 2030.

Additionally, in synergy with Luton’s 2019-2022 Housing Strategy aim to ‘meet the variety of specialist needs which exist and be warm and safe so everyone can have a good quality of life’, the project at Marsh Farm will also deliver against ENGIE’s Growth Strategy; ‘improving lives through better living and working environments, to create sustainable places and deliver homes, buildings and places our future generations deserve.’

“The council and ENGIE have worked closely in delivering this complex project over a long time period in difficult circumstances and we have shared the risks in the testing and consulting with residents. We have achieved this by retaining a shared ambition of delivering significant improvements to tenants in the blocks through reducing fuel bills, alleviating damp and condensation and reducing carbon emissions.”

Patrick Odling-Smee, Service Director of Housing, Luton Borough Council

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