Topping out Ceremony at The University of Liverpool

Topping out ceremonies are traditionally regarded as landmark moments on a building project and in the case of the 19th Century former mortuary building at The University of Liverpool it was more of a milestone than most.  

The new Energy Centre has become home to two Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engines and due to the need for increased ventilation, Vital Energi has designed and installed an 11.2m by 4m “Penthouse Louvre Section” for the roof.  The one-piece prefabricated steel section was craned onto the roof on Friday 14th March and marked the official topping out of the project.

Vital Energi has been installing two CHP engines into the Grade II listed building, which originally served as the mortuary building and chapel for Liverpool Royal Infirmary.  The project has meant removing the roof and then replacing it to the highest conservation standards in order to preserve and maintain the building’s original architecture.  This involved working closely with University architects and abiding by extremely tight constraints which included each slate being individually numbered and replaced in the exact same order and pattern, a task made more complicated as the roof included 37 different sizes and shapes of slate and reslating work took a total of 16 weeks to complete.

Ian Murray – Consultant Project Manager for the University of Liverpool commented, “The University design team, Vital Energi and their subcontractors have worked well together and have, through the application of good communications, teamwork and a steadfast commitment to making the project a success now reached the important project milestone of topping out the building.

“Not only will this project secure the future of a listed building but, when finished, it will contribute to a healthier environment by reducing CO₂ emissions and will also provide a financial return on the capital invested from the resultant savings in energy costs.” 

The new £6 million project involved a large amount of construction work to create the impressive internal, self-supporting steel structure.  This allowed us to deliver a modern energy centre inside a Victorian Building while preserving its external architecture, essentially creating a “building within a building.”  In addition to other plant and equipment the steel structure will support the pair of 2MWe CHP engines on the first floor, which have a combined weight of 46 tonnes.

Importantly, the project also included large amounts of restoration work to safeguard the structure of the original building.  The existing chimney was found to be peeling away from the main building and extensive work was undertaken to stabilize it.  Also, during the course of the renovation 60 windows were either repaired or replaced with matching sashes meeting strict heritage standards.  Approximately 25% of the project was dedicated to building and renovation works.

Ian Whitelock, Joint Managing Director of Vital Energi explained, “When designing and installing a project like this it is important to be sensitive to the original building and to respect the local residents, for whom it is part of the fabric of their community.

“What we have done at the University of Liverpool, through close collaboration, is show that it is possible to retrofit a state-of-the-art, 21st century technology into a heritage building without damaging its character or reducing the performance of the energy centre.”


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