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

We are delighted our involvement with the Royal Arsenal Riverside Development in London is set to enter its second decade.  The project has seen us develop a partnership we are particularly proud of on a project which continues to be one of the largest regeneration developments in London.

The development, which is a key project under the London Plan, is being delivered by Berkeley Homes with SSE acting as the Energy Services Company (ESCo). The project sees the transformation of the former derelict 88 acre site into a vibrant community which incorporates both the refurbishment of Grade I and II listed historic buildings and the creation of bold new modern architecture, mixing the old with the new. When completed it will eventually include over 5,000 new homes, a Crossrail Station, shops, restaurants and cafes, offices, a hotel, community healthcare, nursery, and leisure. 

Vital Energi's Solution

In 2007 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.

Building an energy masterplan

The energy centre would be situated adjacent to a Grade II listed building and share a party wall so we had to maintain the appearance of the building and ensure this structure was sufficient for the equipment. 

An initial concern was the limited access and egress for equipment due to spatial restrictions. A sensitive solution was created, with Vital overseeing the creation of two full-length louvres which enabled safe delivery and manoeuvre of equipment.

The initial energy centre housed one 150kWe CHP engine, two 2MW gas boilers and one 70,000 litre thermal store.  We also installed the above and below ground heating networks which distribute the hot water around the development and the in-home hydraulic interface units.

The phased nature of the development required the design of an overall RIBA stage 3 district heating masterplan.  Critically, this approach to design allowed us to calculate the pipe sizes to ensure optimum capacity, whilst keeping the route flexible.   This allows the developer to have flexibility in the sequence of construction and bring phases forward if necessary.   Additionally, developers often need to install certain areas of infrastructure early, such as pipework which would run under access or service roads, and having the overall masterplan enables our team to make these installations which then integrate with the larger system at a later date.

An innovative feature of this system is that the energy centre has a twin-circuit output which means there are two operating pressure options for the district heating to connect to.  The low pressure circuit feeds the first three phases of the development, with the high-pressure circuit being required for the higher tower blocks.

Further Connections and Adaptations to the Energy Scheme

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.   This has seen us take every effort to ensure noise was kept to a minimum during the installation work.  We also specified a CHP with a catalytic reduction system which reduced NOx emissions to 20mg/kWhr, which met the stringent air pollution control regulations and we carried out extensive atmospheric dispersion modelling to ensure the installation complies with the Clean Air Act legislation.

Creating the Strategy & Evolving the Design

In 2012, Vital Energi was commissioned by Berkeley Homes to carry out a feasibility study into extending the scope of the district heating network and energy centre 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.   This was essential to meet the planning requirements which stipulated that a minimum of 65% of the site’s annual heat demand come from CHP. The study also investigated the best use of the limited available space in the energy centre for additional plant.

The initial, primary challenge was that the footprint was not large enough to accommodate the full range of plant and equipment needed to deliver the increased capacity.  Working closely with Berkeley Homes & SSE we created a 3-level, multi-mezzanine solution which accommodated the new plant and equipment, but still performed optimally.  The steel structure also had the additional benefit of supporting the weight of the equipment, meaning none of the load was carried by the walls of the structure.

The layout of plant was devised to enable a phased installation to suit the construction timetable and minimise initial expenditure whilst retaining adequate access for maintenance.  Fitting the energy centre into the given footprint was commercially important as it maximised the lettable area of the development.

Due to the proximity of the existing 22m high flue 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.  Vital was also commissioned to extend the pre-insulated district heating mains, something made much simpler due to the future proofing of the scheme at the design stage.

To ensure continuity of supply to the residents already living on the development, Vital Energi created a temporary energy centre which utilised the existing boilers by moving them to the temporary location.  This meant that when the temporary energy centre was taken offline for the upgrades, residents’ heat and hot water continued without interruption.

Vital have implemented M&E services for a total of six apartment blocks in the development. These saw our project team install a range of measures including riser and lateral packages, sprinklers, BMS controls, boosted cold water services and dry and wet firefighting risers.

The long-term planning for the heat network was evidenced in this phase as we had previously installed the pipework through the basement carparks beneath all three blocks, which meant we did not need to dig up any roads during this phase.

Delivering the Vision

Our work on this latest phase included work on 266 apartments, bringing the overall total on the development to 562.

Vital Energi’s involvement in this project stretches back 10 years, which has allowed a continuity of vision and we are now seeing the practical benefits of the future proofing measures incorporated into the design stage.

We have worked closely with the ESCo provider, SSE, and the developer, Berkeley Homes, maintaining strong working relationships and providing input into the planning of energy provision to meet the needs of the development as it is constructed.

Key Benefits

  • Site-wide district heating using CHP system providing a low-carbon supply
  • Heat meters ensure occupants only pay for the heat they use
  • Solution that meets stringent planning obligations
  • Future proofed design which evolved alongside the development
  • Predicted savings of 2,300 tonnes of carbon per year once complete
  • Increasing energy generation by 60% with only a 20% increase in building footprint