22.6.2010

University of Liverpool – Heating Infrastructure Project (HIP)

The University of Liverpool has over 23,000 students, and this project sees the construction of a new, central energy centre to serve the whole campus. The design of the new building responds to its sensitive location, within the University’s historic core,  and on the principal circulation spine linking the north and south campuses.

The incremental growth of the University had resulted in a system with two separate high temperature hot water systems, leading to inefficiencies in the operation and management of the estate. A new single energy centre building feeds a high temperature hot water system, serving the whole campus, with some standby capacity to allow for one boiler to be unavailable at any time. The site for the new energy centre was previously used for parking, and is situated in a sensitive and historic part of the campus, surrounded by protected buildings, between the Alfred Waterhouse-designed 19th century Liverpool Royal Infirmary and the historic core of the university. The three old hospital ward wings terminate with arched balconies facing Dover Street. The new building refers to this context, forming a fourth wing and third courtyard, repairing the previously disjointed and unsatisfactory urban realm. Its glazed facade facing Dover  Street responds to the inset arched balconies and provides tantalising glimpses of the massive boilers, pumps, ducts and  valves within the energy centre. An unusual design solution was needed to satisfy the brief, programme and context of the project. To speed the process the energy centre had to be designed before the final decision on major equipment could be made. A cladding system was therefore developed which avoided the need for any conventional louvres or ventilation grilles, and which can be dismantled to provide access for maintenance and replacement. A ground floor clad with patterned steel sheets and gratings, more normally used for stair treads, is surmounted by aluminium panels factory-formed into three-dimensional ‘scales’. The diamond-patterned aluminium cladding is profiled to permit ventilation at any point. Its scale, texture and colour respond to the historic context, which is characterised by a varied roofscape of pitched roofs and facades decorated by openings, string courses and cornices. Overall the new building sits easily beside its Victorian neighbours, without copying any of their materials or details. Changing weather conditions create a variety of effects on the panels, and the glazing either allows reflections of adjacent facades, or  views into the energy centre. The new energy centre includes a 4 million voltampere natural gas powered combined heat and power plant, comprising of 3x12Mw boilers and a 3.4Mw(e) gas engine. An estimated 6,700 tonnes of CO2 will be saved annually.

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