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Prestigious award win for GM Smart Communities (NEDO)

The CIBSE Building Performance Awards recognise the people, products and projects that demonstrate engineering excellence in the built environment and are the only industry awards that focus on actual, measured performance outcomes.

The Greater Manchester Smart Community Demonstration Project was a collaborative project developed by GMCA and Japan’s NEDO in collaboration with a range of partners, including three Greater Manchester Housing Associations, Hitachi Ltd, Daikin Industries Ltd, Mizuho Bank, Electricity Northwest and central Government (BEIS).

Homes across Bury, Manchester and Wigan volunteered to participate in the pioneering trials which involved having their inefficient heating systems replaced with cutting-edge air-source heat pumps.

The pumps were connected to a “smart grid” system with specialist technology to control the energy consumed in their homes.

Residents were also provided with a tablet computer and free access to the internet to enable them to participate in the trial.

By coordinating and controlling the combined electricity use of the households at peak times of the day (known as Demand Response), the project was able to demonstrate a significant reduction of energy demand on the National Grid and test real market situations to identify cases where electricity aggregation using heat pumps can be used effectively.

Findings from the trial will also be used as part of the UK Government’s long-term strategy on heat which aims to strengthen analysis of the range of potential approaches to decarbonising heat in the long term.

With so many partners involved, project coordination and sharing of information was vital.

The establishment of cross-partner meetings and referral sytems helped to streamline responses and deal with issues effectively. A ‘contingency fund’ was also set up to cover any additional unforeseen project costs was a helpful addition to the project.

This central funding was used to support additional tenant engagement, including digital IT literacy training on tablets, and cover unexpected property works to make some of properties suitable for installation, such as strengthening beams and to pay for planning application costs.

“NEDO had a lot of impressive user results despite many stakeholders that would have been difficult to engage with,” said the CIBSE judges.

“This project really showcases what can be done in housing and if the project was replicated it could have a serious impact on stock and change how we operate in this market.”

“I’m delighted by the success of the project,” said Assistant Director of Environment within the Greater Manchester Environment Team, Mark Atherton.

“This CIBSE award is testament both to the innovation of the project, but also the cohesive collaboration that delivered it.”

“We are continuing to work with BEIS and Energy Systems Catapult to assess how the learning from the NEDO project can be taken forward through the Smart Systems and Heat Programme.”

The project successfully demonstrated that a significant amount of energy can be saved through collective Demand Response. across a large number of homes.

Other CIBSE finalists included UBS, BuroHappold Engineering, Next Control Systems and Remeha.