Ireland Climate action and sustainable development, Housing and planning

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s innovative Beaufort energy retrofit project


Credit: Shintartanya on iStock

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s Beaufort housing energy retrofit project received the ‘Local Authority Innovation Award’ at the 2023 Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards. The project was recognized for its unique heat pump district heating system, which provided significant cost savings and demonstrated an innovative approach to energy retrofitting in social housing.

Originally built in 1984, the Beaufort development in Glasthule, County Dublin, consists of 58 designated older persons’ apartments spread across three blocks. Also included in one of the blocks is a daycare centre used by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide a daycare service for older people living in the County.

The Beaufort retrofit project was a substantial part of the Council’s Energy Efficiency Retrofit Programme (EERP) for 2022. In collaboration with SSE Airtricity Energy Services, we undertook a complete retrofit of the 58 apartments in the development with the finished project including external wall insulation, new doors and windows, solar panels, heating system upgrades and attic insulation.

The significant innovation in this project was the installation of an intricate, cascading district heating system that ensures all 58 apartments are heated by just eight 14kW Ecodan heat pumps.

The innovative design of the Beaufort project

Firstly, the bespoke heat pump system significantly reduced the project’s costs. The Department of Housing Local Government and Heritage’s Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme, which Local Authorities work to retrofit their properties through, is designed to fund individual measures in individual social housing properties. So, in a development like Beaufort, it is set up to fund the installation of 58 individual heat pumps in the 58 apartments. For this project, we sought and received approval from the Department of Housing Local Government and Heritage to install a bespoke system that ensures all 58 apartments are heated with just 8 heat pumps.

The basic cost to the Council to install a standalone air-to-air heat pump in similar-sized properties also retrofitted in 2022 was €8,700 per property. The basic cost to install the system of eight cascading heat pumps in the Beaufort development was €3,750 per property. The savings that were achieved because of this innovative approach amounted to €4,950 per property and a total saving of €287,100.

The second way the project is innovative is in the intricate design of the cascading heating system. Our initial design to heat the 58 apartments included a centralized system using 3 individual 43kW heat pumps (one for each block of apartments). On review, we decided against this for resilience and efficiency purposes, as an entire block of apartments would have no backup if one heat pump failed – leaving the elderly residents with no heating. We therefore decided to install an amalgamated system of eight cascading 14kW Ecodan heat pumps with a combined capacity of 112kW. With the heat pumps installed in two parallel banks of four, greater efficiency is achieved in low heat demand times as each series of heat pumps can be modulated down to have just one heat pump operating with a minimum output of 3kW per bank and a total minimum load output of 6kW for the entire development. As demand for heating across the entire development increases due to colder weather, the system will automatically ensure the necessary number of heat pumps (2, 4, 6 or 8) are activated and that the minimum amount of energy is used to meet the overall needs of the residents.

Considered planning and delivery

The combination of Beaufort being a designated older person development and the requirement under the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme that Local Authorities carry out the retrofit/upgrade works with tenants in situ, meant strong communication, project coordination, and project and site safety management of contractors were necessary to minimize disruption and disamenity to the elderly residents.

The onsite project manager kept the tenants informed about all issues and events that arose during the project. A liaison person was also available to the tenants on a dedicated hotline to answer any queries they had. Tenants were continuously reminded of the improvements they would see and feel from the energy upgrades their home was receiving, and were given training on the use of their new hot water and heating controls.

Benefits for Beaufort residents

The overall benefit of this project is that we have ensured 58 of our older, more vulnerable tenants have warmer homes, lower energy bills and an improved quality of life. The more specific benefits include:

  • A saving of €4,950 per property and a total saving of €287,100 for the public finances.
  • Increased resilience and greater failsafe in the development of heating systems.
  • A considerable contribution to the climate-related goals of the Council.
  • Higher deemed energy credits from a post-BER evaluation perspective.
  • Reduced operation and running costs.
  • An increase in the average BER ratings for the apartments from an E1, to an A3.
  • a reduction in calculated energy usage of approximately 80% on the pre-energy usage in the development.
  • a reduction in annual energy saving achieved per apartment of 7,998 Kwh with a total saving of 463,884 Kwh per year.

If you would like to know more about this project, you can watch a short video by clicking here.


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