DECC-funded Green Deal Communities project - Boundary Way, Watford

Boundary Way is an estate which lies across the boundary of Watford Borough Council and Three Rivers District Council. Using Green Deal Communities funding and contributions from householders, the two councils concerned and Thrive Homes, we managed the payment of grants for the external wall insulation of 154 homes.

Boundary Way was built in the 1960s and 1970s using the “Wimpey no fines” construction method. Approximately half the estate had already benefited from external wall insulation using DECC fuel poverty funding. Our project aimed to increase energy efficiency, reduce energy bills and improve the appearance and thermal comfort of the properties by rolling out external wall insulation to the remaining properties on the estate, both privately and publicly owned.

The National Energy Foundation, working alongside Watford Borough Council, Three Rivers District Council and Thrive Homes housing association, managed the administration of grants from the DECC Green Deal Communities Fund and both councils. The appointed installation company was Green Deal Provider, Lakehouse.

What we did included:

  • Liaised between the clients and the contractor, and maintained the risk register.
  • Co-ordinated the production and distribution of explanatory leaflets to inform residents about the grant offer and the availability of free Green Deal Assessments.
  • Organised a Christmas hamper prize draw to act as a catalyst for initial sign-ups for no-obligation Green Deal Assessments.
  • Attended a community event (along with Lakehouse, Thrive Homes and the two councils involved in the project) to inform and engage the residents, answering any concerns and promoting the benefits of external wall insulation.
  • Managed the grant funds from DECC and the local councils and administered payments to Lakehouse, for the installations.
  • Obtained agreement from DECC to the payment of top-up grants to residents who had missed out on taking up a Green Deal loan, and assessed residents’ circumstances against the criteria agreed.
  • Liaised regularly with both councils and Thrive Homes regarding the administration of the grant.
  • Provided monthly reports to DECC and South Bucks District Council (lead partner) on marketing activities, sign-ups and installs.

The results

As a result of our project, the Boundary Way estate underwent a dramatic transformation and a lot of the positive comments received from residents related to the aesthetic improvements. Furthermore, residents quickly noticed the reduction in energy use, more rapid increase in internal temperatures, and better heat retention after they turned the heating off. These improvements led to better thermal comfort for residents and improved health and wellbeing.

Customer contributions were based on the amount they could borrow on a Green Deal loan (which represents the savings they will make on their energy bills) and was intended to enable the insulation to be installed at no up-front cost to the resident. However, this did mean that the amount saved varied between properties depending on their fuel usage and the number of outside walls as well as other factors. To ensure simplicity, future projects might be better to have a level contribution by property type plus a hardship fund for those determined to be in fuel poverty.

A high degree of flexibility was required to manage this project, due to changes in Government policy around the Green Deal and ECO. From project inception to delivery, the value of ECO dropped by a quarter and the availability of Green Deal Finance came to an end with no prior notice.

The original six-month timescale for sign-ups and installs proved very tight, even in an area where there were plenty of examples of external wall insulation already available for everyone to see.

A longer timescale would have given us more time to identify customers, particularly in private rented properties, sign them up and enable sufficient time for customers to find their contribution.

In total, 154 out of a potential 173 homes benefited from external wall insulation.

Together with the 118 properties completed in the first phase, the result was a complete regeneration and visual transformation of the estate.

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