Berkeley Group Berkeley Group Royal Arsenal In Progress

Providing a low carbon generation solution for a 76 acre development and in one of London's leading boroughs for carbon reduction, Greenwich.

“Berkeley Homes has been working with Vital Energi at the Royal Arsenal Riverside for the past five years. During this time they have become an integral part of the delivery team providing a comprehensive service for the design, supply, installation and maintenance of the Energy Centre and district heating network serving the site.”

David Bannon Technical Director, Berkeley Homes

Project Overview

Vital Energi is making history with the introduction of green energy to one of London’s most significant military landmarks.

Sited on the south bank of the River Thames in Woolwich, south east London and established in 1671, The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, originally known as the Woolwich Warren, carried out armaments manufacture, ammunition proofing and explosives research for the British armed forces. It was vital to British commanders like the Duke of Wellington, but was closed by the Ministry of Defence in the late 1960s.

The London Development Agency (LDA) took control of the land in 2000, tasked to create a new mixed use urban quarter as a vital part of housing growth strategy along the Thames Gateway. Today it is the location of a major urban regeneration project by Berkeley Homes to create an urban village in Woolwich in the London Borough of Greenwich.

Due to be completed by 2032, the project is transforming a derelict 76 acre site into a vibrant community incorporating both the refurbishment of Grade I and II listed historic buildings and bold new modern architecture. It is one of London’s largest brownfield sites and will eventually include 3,700 new homes, shops, restaurants and cafes, offices, a hotel, community healthcare, nursery, leisure and a cinema.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) is the Energy Service Company (ESCo) for the scheme.

Vital Energi has been commissioned to design, supply, install and operate and maintain an efficient energy solution for the development.

The Challenge

The development incorporates the site of the former Royal Arsenal together with the Royal Arsenal Gardens and a nearby car park.
The Royal Arsenal Gardens are being re-landscaped to provide a ‘green route’ connecting Woolwich town centre to the River Thames.

The initial phase of the scheme provided 1249 homes in a mix of converted listed buildings and new build blocks and included the Greenwich Heritage Centre, Firepower (a museum showcasing the history of the Royal Regiment of Artillery), shops, cafes and other commercial and light industrial buildings.

The next phase, known as ‘The Warren’, includes The Armouries and The Warehouse developments, and will eventually add over 2500 homes, as well as a health centre, hotel, offices, cafes, shops and a new cinema.

Vital Energi's Solution

Vital Energi was initially commissioned to design, supply and install an efficient energy solution to serve 461 apartments in The Armouries, a nursery, Primary Care Trust, shops and restaurants.

We fitted out an energy centre, designed and built to blend in with the existing surrounding buildings, which currently houses one 150kWe CHP engine, two 2MW gas boilers and one 70,000 litre thermal store. We also installed an above and below ground heat distribution network which connects to Vital ‘Aqua Varm’ Heat Interface Units (HIUs) in each home, providing instantaneous heat and hot water and integral heat meters to monitor consumption.

In 2011, we connected a further 290 homes, known as The Warehouse, as well as a number of commercial buildings, including a leisure centre. At the same time, we installed a 2.5MW boiler, associated pipework, and made modifications to the building management system controls to accommodate additional heat and hot water demand.

Throughout the project, Vital Energi has paid special consideration to the requirements of the local environment and the residents of adjacent buildings including ensuring noise was kept to a minimum during the installation work.  The CHP plant was carefully selected to meet stringent air pollution control regulations and atmospheric dispersion modelling was carried out to see how emissions disperse in the atmosphere to ensure the installation complies with the Clean Air Act Legislation.

In 2012, Vital Energi was commissioned by Berkeley Homes to carry out a feasibility study into extending the scope of the district heating network to accommodate the entire future capacity of the site.  The initial calculations concluded that the thermal output of the energy centre needed to be increased to accommodate a 15 MW peak load requirement for the development, resulting in the CHP capacity increasing to 2.4MWe in order to meet the planning requirements of contributing a minimum of 65% of the sites annual heat demand. The study also investigated the best use of the limited available space in the energy centre for additional plant.

The footprint, as it stands, was deemed insufficient. Working with Berkeley Homes, we developed a conceptual scheme involving the addition of two extra floors within the existing energy centre.  The layout of plant was devised to enable a phased installation to suit the construction timetable and minimise initial expenditure whilst maintaining adequate access for maintenance.

Due to the proximity of the existing 22m high flue at the energy centre to the new cross rail station, accurate air dispersion calculations were required to reduce the Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) output of the system in order to meet the stringent planning requirements. By using a process called Selective Catalytic Reduction, ammonia liquid is injected into the CHP flue gas which acts as an agent and breaks down the NOx emissions to as low as 0mg/m3.

In addition, a concept scheme was developed involving the extension of the existing energy centre and the construction of a second Energy Centre.  The total thermal output remained the same however the second energy centre would require additional ancillary components including a new thermal store, new flue system and controls.

Finally an extension to the existing pre-insulated buried district heating mains was developed which has been designed to be connected to the rest of the 76 acre development.


Occupying a prime location along the River Thames, Royal Arsenal Riverside is one of South East London's most exciting riverside addresses and is being developed by Berkeley Group into a sustainable and vibrant new community.

Vital Energi has designed the energy scheme so that it provides an economically viable solution to the client and future tenants and occupiers, while achieving a minimum 10 per cent reduction in carbon emissions.   

We have maintained a close relationship with the ESCo provider, SSE, and the developer, Berkeley Homes, providing input into the planning of energy provision to meet the needs of the development as it is constructed.


  • Site-wide district heating using CHP system providing a low-carbon supply
  • Heat meters ensure occupants only pay for the heat they use
  • Purpose-built energy centre designed to blend in with existing, surrounding listed buildings
  • Solution that meets stringent planning obligations
  • Future proofed design for the whole development
  • Reducing impact on the environment