Arup designs shell of Manchester's new Combined Heat and Power plant

04 January 2018

The Manchester City Centre has commissioned Arup and architects Tonkin Liu Architects to develop the shell of its new Combined Heat and Power plant chimney. The new plant supports the region’s shift to a more sustainable economic model. The new ‘Tower of Light’ addition to the plant, will create an iconic feature, hiding what would otherwise be five flues.

As part of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s bid to reduce its total CO2e emissions by 48% by 2020 from a 1990 baseline, focus is being placed on energy consumption. At present, the city is seeking ways to produce 1 TWh per year of electricity and 2-3 TWh per year of heat, locally, by 2020.

District heating is one of the many forms of energy sustainability being developed across cities globally. The system offers various benefits, by, among others, reducing the regional and global carbon footprint, diversifying energy distribution, reducing fuel poverty, and aligning with regeneration programmes.Arup designs shell of Manchester's new Combined Heat and Power plantTo that end, the Manchester City Centre, as part of the GMCA’s planning, has commissioned a new Combined Heat and Power plant (CHP), which will provide energy across a 2-kilometre network, encompassing a number of iconic buildings, including Manchester Town Hall and The Bridgewater Hall.

As part of the project a 37-metre-tall ‘Tower of Light’ was envisaged. The structure acts as a chimney and windshield for the CHP, but combines the façade and structure to create an iconic and functional artefact. Engineering consultancy Arup and architects Tonkin Liu Architects, were appointed to develop the dual sculptural skin of the tower and support for the five chimney flues within. A flue is a duct, pipe, or opening in a chimney for conveying exhaust gases from a fireplace, furnace, water heater, boiler, or generator to the outdoors.

The consulting firm leveraged their extensive collaboration in the development of ‘Shell Lace Structures’ that combine natural world architecture with modern world materials. The method offers strength and stiffness at minimal material, by leveraging sea shell like geometries. The firm’s work together on similar, but functionally quite different structures, the Solar Gate in Hull and the Rain Bow Gate’ pavilion in Burnley.

Will Arnold, Senior Structural Engineer Will Arnold Senior Structural Engineer, Arup, said, “Evolving our thinking and learning on earlier shell projects built in this way, we are using digital design techniques to optimise the geometry of the tower, to minimise the thickness of steel required for the skin. The additional challenges posed by the need to support five chimney flues over the height of a nine-storey building has made for an incredibly exciting project and we’re looking forward to starting fabrication in 2018.”


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How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.