Now the Thames will be heating apartment blocks

The 136 flats at NHP’s £70 million Kingston Heights scheme will be the first homes in the UK to harness the latent warmth of river water
Kingston Heights
New flats at Kingston Heights will use water from the River Thames, harnessing its latent heat to cut residents' energy bills
It looks much like any other contemporary London housing development. But the 136 new flats within this west London block will be heated by harnessing the warmth of the River Thames.

In a UK-first, the future residents of the £70m Kingston Heights can expect lower than usual bills thanks to a novel experiment in sustainability.

A system of pipes and pumps will extract water from the river, and then use heat pump technology to extract its latent warmth - cutting both carbon emissions and heating costs.

The river water is only about 9C but technology allows that warmth to be extracted and used to heat fresh water to 45 degrees. A network of pipes will take this water into the flats to provide underfloor heating and hot water. Meanwhile the river water will be returned to the Thames.

Tony Hibbs, building services design manager for United House, which has created the system for developer NHP, said: “It is a spectacular scheme, and as far as we know it has not been done in the UK before for a housing scheme. You are not putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and although obviously there is an energy cost in terms of pumping the water out of the river it is still a very sustainable option.”

A system of filters will be included to make sure Thames wildlife – particularly eels and mussels - are not sucked into the system and killed. And while a decision has not yet been made about how much homeowners at the site will be charged for the river-powered warmth Hibbs said it was likely to undercut conventional gas suppliers.

“We are taking the water from about two metres down and there is not much variation in water temperature between winter and summer, so it should work year round,” said Hibbs.

Kingston Heights is being built on the site of a former power station and will also include a 150-bedroom hotel. It is due for completion next spring.

The shared ownership flats in the scheme will be sold by housing association Affinity Sutton (www.affinitysutton.com). Prices start at £62,500 for a 25 per cent share of a one-bedroom flat, and will require a deposit of £3,125.

Kingston Heights is just one of a series of new schemes innovating to cut heating costs and carbon emissions.

The Greenhauses, near Brook Green in west London, a development from Octavia Living, uses exceptional levels of insulation to minimise heat loss, resulting in a 90 per cent reduction in energy consumption compared to regular new builds. There will be eight houses on the site, priced from £750,000 for a 2/3 bedroomed mews house, as well as 13 shared ownership properties and nine rental homes when the scheme is finished early next year (www.octaviahousing.org.uk).

Mike Spenser-Morris, managing director of NHP Leisure Developments, said the private flats would be launched next year and that prices had not yet been decided. The development will be fully completed at the start of 2014.

“This will be the first installation anywhere of its kind in the country,” he said. “We have had to go all the way to Japan to look at a similar system. It will be available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.”

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