Case Study Community Gas Scheme — Walsall Housing Group, Walsall

Background

Walsall Flats were built around 1970 and were constructed as three storey flats with electric storage heaters as the main form of heating. All 149 flats are located in an area of high deprivation and were targeted for funding under the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP).

Working in partnership with Walsall Housing Group (WHG) and British Gas, Affordable Warmth Solutions installed new gas mains and services to the flats which enabled British Gas to install new energy efficient gas heating systems.

The gas construction work involved the laying of circa 982m of low pressure gas mains, circa 300m of riser pipework and the installation of 149 new services.

The original planned start dates of August 2012 had been significantly delayed by complex easement negotiations. We were committed to making this scheme ‘happen’ as some £0.52 million CESP funding was available for Walsall Housing Group. Further delays to the construction scheme could have jeopardised this funding.

Legal approval was secured at the end of January 2013 allowing just eight (8) weeks for construction. Work then commenced in earnest to finalise and arrange:

  • Contracts with the client and award construction contracts
  • Construction Design & Management (CDM) packs and notify the HSE
  • Access to highways and agree road openings
  • Mobilisation in line with construction and CDM requirements
  • Access to all properties

Process

Walsall Housing Group Vertical Polyethlyene Risers Image1

Vertical Polyethlyene (PE) risers to three-storey flats at Walsall Housing Group

Because of the need to have “gas on” to as many properties, as quickly as possible, AWS reviewed construction aspects to determine if the site was suitable for relatively new initiatives such as polyethylene (PE) riser systems as opposed to conventional steel systems, the use of PE would facilitate faster construction. Following detailed risk analysis with our approved contractor (Future Utility Services), manufacturers and suppliers, the scheme was deemed suitable and for the first time on AWS related works, the PE riser system was used.

AWS agreed a resource plan that had a team of 20 contractors working on the site at any one time. These works, notifiable under the Construction Design & Management Regulations (CDM) were co-ordinated by AWS Project Officer, Peter Edwards.

Weekly meetings with the project team and the client ensured the project was kept on schedule and difficult issues such as access to flats were managed accordingly.


Challenges

 

Walsall Housing Group Vertical Polyethlyene Risers Image2

Vertical Polyethlyene (PE) risers to three-storey flats at Walsall Housing Group

Two specific challenges encountered during the works should be noted:

  • Access to flats, which is always a significant issue on internal supplies for three storey risers; and
  • Appalling weather. The teams encountered the coldest March in 50 years with significant snow falls, high winds and frozen grounds which had an effect on the overall project and particularly reinstatements aspects. In all, approximately nine total working days were lost due to the poor weather.

Despite the challenges and aggressive timescales, the works were completed on schedule and within budget and essentially to the complete satisfaction of the client Walsall Housing Group, who thanks to the British Gas CESP funding, were able to install new highly efficient gas heating systems for its tenants.

The scheme attracted many plaudits, but most importantly from the residents who now have the opportunity to live in warmer, healthier homes.