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UK’s largest gas replacement project bringing ground source heating to Sunderland apartment blocks

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Oakes Energy Services is supporting a major environmental project for Gentoo Group to replace gas boilers in seven tower blocks in Sunderland with ground source heating.

Working in partnership with energy and regeneration specialist ENGIE, and group source heat pump specialist Kensa Contracting, Oakes is installing internal communal distribution infrastructure along with ‘shoebox’ heat pumps in each of the tower blocks and364 apartments.

Oakes Energy Services has a team of nine engineers undertaking the project, which will be completed after further COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed.

It is part of a wider programme at the tower blocks to deliver further improvements also including the installation of sprinklers, upgrades to the incoming electricity supply, upgrades to the fire alarm and detection systems and new Sunamp heat battery delivering hot water from the shoe box.


Each Kensa Shoebox ground source heat pump will be integrated into a micro communal district heating system connected to the aquifer under the tower blocks, which enables heat to be transferred from the ground to the buildings.

Heat is generated from an underground layer of water-bearing rocks 40-60 metres beneath the tower blocks, known as an aquifer. In addition to providing renewable heating for the apartments, the system will also provide consistent ambient temperatures for the tower block communal areas to prevent heat loss and overcome overheating.

The project supports the Government’s new National Design Guide and the soon-to-be-implemented Future Homes Standard, both of which recommend heat pumps as a sustainable heating alternative to fossil fuels.

Oakes Energy Services is highly active in the sector, providing a range of energy efficient services to commercial and domestic applications, which includes designing and installing renewable energy systems to reduce energy consumption and bills.

It forms part of Pacifica Group, one of the UK’s leading home services firms, which is headquartered in Houghton-Le-Spring, in North East of England.

Jason Oakes, Business Development Director of Oakes Energy Services, said: “We are exceptionally proud as a local company to be part of this transformative project in Sunderland, which will have a significant positive impact on the reduction of carbon emissions by around 70 percent and also improve air quality. Ground source heating is an effective solution for multiple dwelling properties, and we are engaging with a number of housing providers keen to harness this renewable energy solution.”

Gentoo’s Chief Executive Officer, Nigel Wilson, said: “Gentoo is committed to providing safe and affordable housing for its tenants and I’m delighted to welcome this important work, delivering real savings for our tenants and generating renewable heat for their homes.”

Andrew McIntosh, Regional Managing Director at ENGIE, said: “We have a great partnership with Gentoo and are delighted to help bring this innovative and energy efficient solution to all residents involved in this project. Our expertise in wide scale regeneration and energy projects will ensure this project is delivered effectively, providing North Tower residents with a modern heating system and enhanced fire safety features.”

David Broom, Commercial Director at Kensa Contracting, said: Electrification of heat with ground source heat pumps not only makes buildings safer and cheaper to run, but also immediately reduces carbon emissions, and more importantly puts UK homes on the pathway to Zero Carbon as grid infrastructure is further decarbonised.”

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