The promise of District Heating

The promise of District Heating

As national Net Zero targets loom, housing associations and developers must turn their attention to low carbon heating technology.

Ian Lock, Director of Sales for New Build & Multioccupancy at Baxi Heating, explores how district heating is emerging as a solution for futureproofing developments. 

With legislative change on the horizon for the domestic heating sector, housing developers are under mounting pressure to implement renewable alternatives. Proposals for the Future Homes Standard set out an ambition for gas boilers to be phased out by 2025 in new buildings, yet, in the more immediate future, uplifts to Part L of Building Regulations in June 2022 will also begin to drive the adoption of low carbon heating. At this stage, it’s essential that developers are aware of the approaches that play an instrumental role in the energy transition. 

Considering solutions
Considerable change is occurring in the heating industry, with a range of renewable heating solutions emerging. Hydrogen-powered boilers are currently in development, and heat pump technology is already being implemented in dwellings for low carbon heating, but what must be acknowledged is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. 

Individual heat pump systems in each dwelling aren’t necessarily the most viable option when approaching multioccupancy building projects in particular. These types of dwellings have limited space, which makes it difficult to install an external heat pump unit for each apartment. For the retrofit environment, this is especially challenging as fabric upgrades and larger radiators may be needed to make an efficient installation.

It’s for this reason that heat networks offer another solution that the housing sector should be considering to navigate decarbonisation. Especially as new regulations come into force. 

Heat network zoning
Towards the end of 2021, BEIS ran a consultation looking at the possibility of introducing designated heat network zoning in densely populated areas. 

As a result of the proposal, the government has planned to implement this approach into local planning regulations by 2025 across designated zones. For busy urban areas in particular, this means new build projects could be prioritised during the planning stage.

With new planning conditions coming into force, there is further emphasis on developers to adopt a district heating strategy, particularly in multioccupancy buildings which will be more prevalent across densely populated areas.  

As a heat network circumvents the need to install separate heating systems for individual homes, heat waste is reduced across multiple properties. Instead, each dwelling may be fitted with a heat interface unit, this means space for a central heating system in every dwelling doesn’t have to be factored in, offering a more logical solution for multioccupancy. It also opens the door to previously impractical applications, as heat pump technology for instance, can now be implemented at the central source location for low carbon heating.

Supporting the drive
In line with proposed legislation, the UK government has set an ambition for 18% of overall building heat to be generated through district heating by 2050. To increase uptake and reach this milestone, funding such as the Green Heat Network Fund (GHNF) Transition Scheme is being put in place. 

Launching in April of this year, the GHNF scheme will offer grant funding to local authorities and public sector applicants for district heating development projects. The housing sector will no doubt see this as an opportunity to gain financial support for low carbon heating applications in projects.  

Along with funding, other support will undoubtedly be necessary for facilitating district heating uptake. Heating manufacturers in particular, have a part to play in supplying solutions, as well as guiding application at the same time. 

For optimum performance, design and specification will need to be carefully considered. By choosing solution partners like Baxi, developers can be fully supported in implementing systems that meet low carbon requirements both now and into the future.   

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