Residents in seven tower blocks in Sunderland will become green heat pioneers at the conclusion of a new project to install low carbon ground source heat pumps in 364 homes in place of gas boilers.
Housing association Gentoo Group is delivering the "Core 364" project with the support of energy and regeneration specialist, Engie, and ground source heat pump specialists, Kensa Contracting.
Early works for the heating upgrade programme commenced in October, with all systems expected to be replaced by late summer 2020.
Gentoo believes that a growing number of ground source heat pump installations in existing and new build housing is linked to the government's new National Design Guide and imminent Future Homes Standard, which is currently out for consulation.
Both of these recommend heat pumps as sustainable heating alternatives to fossil fuels.
In addition, the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018, which banned all combustible materials at heights over 18m in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, has had the secondary impact of rendering external boiler flues that contain combustible materials unlawful.
This removes the option for like-for-like replacements in multiple occupancy buildings, and could become an additional argument for removing gas from buildings.
Each flat will be kitted out with a Kensa Shoebox ground source heat pump, which will be connected to a lower temperature "fifth generation" district heating system consisting of ambient shared ground loop arrays.
An underground aquifer will provide the heat source for the tower blocks, accessed via open loop boreholes drilled to depths of 60m.
The system prevents heat losses, overcoming overheating in the tower block communal areas, and boosts the system efficiency.
The decentralised heat pumps provide heating independence to the tenants, with each still able to shop around for the cheapest electricity deal to power their heat pumps and other domestic devices.
Compared to gas central heating, the heat pumps will reduce carbon emissions by nearly 70% per year, and improve local air quality.
As the electricity grid further decarbonises, the system's carbon savings will become even more pronounced.
David Broom, commercial director at Kensa Contracting, comments: "Electrification of heat with ground source heat pumps not only makes buildings safer and cheaper to run, but also immediately reduces carbon emissions, and more importantly puts UK homes on the pathway to Zero Carbon as grid infrastructure is further decarbonised."
The Gentoo scheme will see further improvements in the tower blocks, including upgrades to the incoming electricity supply and upgrades to fire alarm and detection systems.
Gentoo's chief executive cfficer, Nigel Wilson, said: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with ENGIE and Kensa Contracting to deliver this effective and pioneering service for our tenants. This heating system will provide heat and hot water at a much reduced cost, using natural heat from the ground.
"Gentoo is committed to providing safe and affordable housing for its tenants and I'm delighted to welcome the start of this important work, delivering real savings for our tenants and generating renewable heat for their homes.
"This is just one of many improvements we are committed to making in our high rise blocks which will ensure our residents stay even safer in their own homes in the future."
Andrew McIntosh, regional managing director at Engie, said: "We have a great partnership with Gentoo and are delighted to help bring this innovative and energy efficient solution to all residents involved in this project.
"Our expertise in wide scale regeneration and energy projects will ensure this project is delivered effectively, providing North Tower residents with a modern heating system and enhanced fire safety features."