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

04 January 2018 2 min. read
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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.”