New-build homes in London: how your property’s central heating system can help the UK’s carbon zero efforts


If the UK is to be zero carbon by 2050, the government will need to do more than ban polluting vehicles from the roads — a policy announced by the Prime Minister last week. 

The way we live is clearly energy profligate and zero carbon means changing every aspect of our lives — 15 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gases come from the way we heat our homes.

But are new-homes builders making a significant impact on the way our homes pollute? 

Before you buy a new home the first question you should ask is: “How is this home heated?”

From £895,000: two-bedroom apartments heated by a central energy hub at London Square Bermondsey

It is already no longer the norm to buy a new home with an individual gas boiler in the airing cupboard.

Most larger new-homes schemes this spring will have one gas-fired combined heat and power hub, known as CHP, that will heat the whole neighbourhood. It’s known as district heating and is used in dense urban areas such as London.

“The history is that combined heat and power [from gas] was considered efficient at the start of the century compared with individual gas-fired boilers. Planning policy and local authorities started to push in that direction and we’re now seeing those developments nearing completion,” says Chris Brown founder of ethical developer Igloo. 

The CHP also generates electricity that can be sold to local businesses or fed back into the Grid. 

There is talk of using waste heat that comes off the Tube and from electricity substations. Of course the more complexity, the more cost, says Joel Gustafsson.

Brown estimates that an individual air source heat pump will cost £5,000 per property. He argues these extra costs are already being priced into land values.

The legislation lag 

A central CHP is considered low carbon compared to burning coal or fuel or installing thousands of individual gas-fired boilers, but even this system is now behind the times.

In his spring statement last year, the then-Chancellor Philip Hammond  announced a ban on gas boilers in new homes from 2025 in a bid to tackle emissions, as part of the Future Homes Standard currently being drawn up. 

“Developers and homeowners are caught in a legislation lag,” explains Joel Gustafsson, an engineer at consultancy Max Fordham.

“Energy provision is now set out at masterplanning stage and it takes years for proposals to become reality.”

However, the centralised CHP can be easily removed and replaced with cleaner tech, for example a central air source heat pump, or ASHP. 

“There is a big drive towards ASHPs that can be swapped into an energy centre,” says Andrew White of Metropolitan, a national integrated energy and utility infrastructure provider. “That’s far easier than replacing every single individual boiler.” 

A central CHP has a natural lifespan of 15 years, so by the time this latest wave of developments needs updating it can be replaced by a more efficient system. 

Residents, at the point of purchase, should ask the developer and local authority when their CHP will need to be replaced and whether they will incur any charges.

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Powered by CHP: the 842-home Upton Gardens scheme

“Check the energy operator is registered with the customer protection organisation the Heat Trust. They should cover the cost of any work,” White advises. 

“There is price-capping, too, making sure that this type of heating does not cost people more than a traditional gas boiler.” 

Those buyers searching for homes with a state-of-the-art central ASHP will not find much choice yet, says Rory Bergin of housing design specialists HTA Design. 

“Most of our old schemes are gas and most of our new ones are pump-driven and are going through planning at the moment,” he says. 

Where to find a new London home with eco-friendly heating 

Bermondsey

The new £220 million neighbourhood at London Square Bermondsey is powered by a central CHP.

The 4.7-acre conversion of a former pickle plant has already sold 70 per cent of its 406 homes off-plan with buyers drawn to hipster Bermondsey, a five-minute walk from London Bridge and Borough Market.

Historically this area was known as the Larder of London due to its famous food factories, from Garibaldi biscuits-maker Peek Freans to Hartley’s Jam.

Those factories are being, or already have been, transformed into homes and the modern-day food scene comprises markets under the railway arches and now-established swish riverside restaurants on Shad Thames.

When complete, the London Square scheme will bring galleries for emerging artists, a community centre and affordable housing to the area, all heated by the central energy hub.

Two-bedroom apartments start from £895,000. Call 0333 666 4343.

New Docklands

Royal Wharf is part of the £3.5 billion regeneration of the Royal Docks.

The 3,385 new homes will be heated by one central CHP.

It’s well-connected with the Docklands Light Railway and Jubilee line close by, and also Royal Wharf Pier, London’s longest river bus terminal, where commuters can jump aboard the MBNA Thames Clipper. 

Three-bedroom homes are available from £725,000. Call 020 3797 1947.

Mill Hill

One example is Pentavia Mill Hill in Barnet. The builder Meadow Residential will use one large ASHP to heat 844 new build-to-rent homes on the brownfield scheme.

The proposed system is predicted to reduce carbon emissions by 62 per cent, compared with using a CHP.

All 21 apartments at Epsom Reach, in the Surrey commuter belt, are powered by electricity with an ASHP in each home. Prices will be released in July when the Shanly Homes scheme launches. Call 01372 225 007.

“A pump that takes energy out of water is even more efficient,” says White. Just imagine the potential for vast schemes along the Thames.

Hoola, two towers in the Royal Docks, on the other hand, uses excess heat from the neighbouring ExCeL exhibition centre.

This results in a 57 per cent carbon reduction against current regulations.

There are seven homes for sale in the HUB scheme. Prices start at £600,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom flat. Call 020 7534 9065.

Upton Park

Kashif Anjum and his partner Florian, 35, moved from their home in Barking last year into a three-bedroom apartment in Upton Gardens — Barratt Homes’ conversion of the old West Ham football stadium.

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Kashif and Florian: ‘Lower energy costs are a big factor for us’

The 842-home scheme has a centralised CHP system powering the new district. 

“Energy efficiency was a big factor when we decided to buy at Upton Gardens,” says Anjum, 40. 

“The modern build focused on insulation, and heating costs are much lower compared to the period house I used to live in.”

Homes start from £490,000. Call 0333 3558 496.



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