Engaging with the local community

GreenSCIES is a project co-designed with the local community. We want to involve all parts of the Islington community, and make sure the diversity of its members and opinions is reflected in the design of the network.

We are holding regular online workshops, for individuals and groups who are willing to share their local knowledge, thoughts and ideas. No prior knowledge is required and everybody is welcome.

These online workshops help us to find out what matters to you when thinking about the future of your borough and its energy system. These are an opportunity for you to get involved in and shape an innovative project, make your voice heard and connect with other residents.

Co-design workshops

Thanks to all of those who attended our public co-design workshops on Tuesday 30 June, Wednesday 1 July and Wednesday 30 September 2020. You can find the workshop slides here:

Tuesday 30 June, Wednesday 1 July

Wednesday 30 September

Lessons learnt from our community engagement journey

You might not think that the local community can have a say in how major energy systems are designed, but you’d be wrong! Eva from Repowering London describes how Islington residents are helping to shape the GreenSCIES project.

What is GreenSCIES?

The Green Smart Community Integrated Energy System (GreenSCIES) is a new way to supply heat and power to buildings using renewable and alternative energy sources. Excess heat, which would otherwise be wasted, such as that produced by the Tube and computer data centres will be sent to solar-powered heat pumps to increase its temperature, before being supplied to nearby homes and businesses.  The New River Scheme is the first design of the GreenSCIES initiative; it will be located in the Angel area of Islington and will include 3 different housing estates. By switching away from traditional gas boilers, the project will significantly reduce carbon emissions and improve local air quality.

Community Engagement

The GreenSCIES collaboration comprises  numerous different organisations, including architects and engineers, local government, and us! Our role is to ensure that the community is part of the project and helping to co-design it. We are actively seeking the input of members of the local community , and particularly the people who live in the housing estates that would be part of the New River project. We’ve been hosting meetings (both in person and remotely) over the past 18 months to inform the community about the project and to get their feedback. Each of those discussions has been instrumental in influencing the design and implementation of this project.

Lessons Learnt: How to Engage

One of the first things we learned in this process was how to best interact with Islington’s widely diverse community. Each of the three housing estates, alone, has hundreds of residents, coming from vastly different backgrounds. Initially, we held 6 online workshops that were attended by a number of Islington residents who  already had an interest in energy issues and who were comfortable with the online interface, but we wanted to reach more of the community.

In Islington, more than 1 in 10 households live in fuel poverty, and many more residents worry about their energy bills, especially in the Winter. This led us to run our first “Stay Warm & Well” workshop. These workshops provide tips and advice on energy bills and usage and have already been delivered successfully by Repowering London in Lambeth for years. We partnered with the Galbur Foundation, a charity empowering young and vulnerable Islington residents, that is well connected to the local Somali community. Working together, we held our first workshop for Somali and Arabic-speaking Islington residents, which included advice on energy costs as well as an overview of the GreenSCIES initiative and how it would affect them.

These interactions have also helped us hone  our communications strategy, helping us to develop materials that strike the right balance of detail to provide the important information that residents care about in a clear and concise way. We’ve received useful tips about who else we should be talking to and working with, making sure that we reach everyone who might be interested in the project. Based on all of these interactions, we are using a variety of engagement approaches to make sure we reach everyone.

 

Lessons Learnt: Options for Design

Whilst the technical components of the system are finetuned to make sure that they will work effectively and in a cost-effective manner, there are a number of components of the design that are flexible. For example, the system will require a water storage tank to store the hot water as it is heated by the solar-powered heat pumps. While the size and location of the tank are dictated by the system requirements, the outward appearance is not. Residents gave us feedback about how they would like it to appear, whether to cover it in complementary cladding or greenery for a more attractive appearance.

Lessons Learnt: Existing Problems

One of the most interesting developments from the engagement activities has been how the GreenSCIES system could perhaps deliver unintended, positive conseque

Meeting with Islington residents September 2021.

nces by potentially fixing existing problems within the building or its environs. For example, we learned that heating in the housing estates is currently limited to certain months of the year and certain hours of the day, which doesn’t always enable residents  to stay warm in a cold spell. Because the heat source for GreenSCIES is constant, it could be possible to provide heat to the residents all year round. We also learned that the water pressure decreases on the higher floors of these tall buildings, which can be problematic for  residents. The design for GreenSCIES relies on using the existing pipework to carry heat and hot water from the central heating room up to the individual flats, but we are exploring options to see if upgrades could be made to improve water pressure as part of the project. If possible, the GreenSCIES design could attempt to address these existing problems and offer  added benefits for residents.

We take our role as the community engagement team seriously. We’re not just ‘ticking the box’, but really making an effort to reach out to the community to get their feedback and incorporate it back into the design. We want GreenSCIES to not only achieve its ambitious climate goals, but to best reflect the needs and interests of the community where it will be located.

If you are a resident of Islington and want to get involved, please contact us at greenscies@repowering.org.uk.

Article by Emily Sharp