Students get construction experience as innovative £3.8m heating project commences in Newcastle

by Francesca

Four Newcastle students got the opportunity for hands-on work experience with EQUANS – the new name for ENGIE’s services-led businesses – as the company kicks off  an innovative low carbon heating project in partnership with Your Homes Newcastle (YHN).

Centred on the Denton Park House and Hilltop House tower blocks in the West Denton area of Newcastle, the £3.8m project will see the complete removal of the gas-powered central heating systems, and replaced by Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP).

GSHPs work by drilling holes deep into the ground and harnessing natural heat from underground by pumping water through it in pipes. The heat pump then increases the temperature, and the heat is used to provide home heating or hot water.

The benefit to residents are lower energy bills and a reduction in the carbon footprint of both blocks, thanks to the complete removal of the old gas system.

Will Kay, Regional Managing Director at EQUANS, said: “Partnering with YHN to install Ground Source Heat Pumps at Denton & Hilltop is another example of our ability to deliver innovative projects which benefit the lives of residents, reducing their energy bills and their carbon footprint.

“EQUANS is also committed to working closely with the community everywhere we work, and I was delighted to be able to welcome four work experience students to the site, who will no doubt benefit from being able to get practical experience of the industry.”

As part of the works, four students from Studio West school got the opportunity to spend a week of work experience with the site team to learn more about the project – which they can see from their classrooms.

Shadowing both the site managers, Resident Liaison Officer Lynn Johnson, and the electricians, plumbers and joiners, the Year 10 students – Kai, Leroy, Alfie and Kieran – got to see how their construction course at school can set them up for a wide range of careers once they graduate.

Kai said: “It’s been a really good experience, we’ve been following everyone on site and learning more about how they’re installing the system and drilling the boreholes outside for the heat pumps.

“We’re all interested in construction in the future and being able to get the experience of so many different aspects of the industry has been really good.”

The work experience is just one element of how EQUANS has been supporting Studio West, with the donation of surplus materials to the Denton school for use in their practical construction courses.

David Langhorne, YHN’s Assets and Development Director, said: “YHN manages around 26,000 properties for Newcastle City Council, so it is vital we play our part in reducing the city’s carbon footprint. We are committed to supporting the council’s ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions and this project is one of several we’re trialling across the stock we manage to assess which pilots will be most effective.

“It was fantastic to see students showing such an interest in these energy efficient construction practices. I hope this experience encourages them to consider working in this area in future.”

The work is being supported by partners Newcastle City Council, which secured £1.4m from the Government’s Renewal Heat Initiative to help fund the scheme.

Cllr Clare Penny-Evans, Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet member for climate change and public safety, said: “Housing is one of the most challenging areas when it comes to achieving our net zero ambitions, with homes in the UK producing more carbon emissions than all the cars in the country combined. 

“Existing, older homes are by far the worst polluters, and with over 80 percent of the homes people will live in in the city in 2050 already built we know we need to take decisive action, retrofitting properties to improve their energy efficiency.

“We are working on a programme to improve our own housing stock and this project is key to that, with new low carbon heating systems and projects to improve insulation also helping to reduce energy demand.

“It is incredibly positive to see how the council, YHN and EQUANS are helping to deliver not only greener, cleaner and more sustainable housing, but offer opportunities for young people to work in partnership with industry, understand new technologies and grasp the opportunities presented by the new green economy, learning skills and knowledge that will hopefully benefit our city for years to come.”

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