BAA BAA Heathrow Airport

The £4.3 billion Terminal 5 development at Heathrow was one of the most exciting developments and Vital Energi was chosen to bring their three decades of experience to the project and install the District Heating Network.

“London Heathrow airport's Terminal 5 project provided an opportunity for BAA to set & deliver new standards in environmental sustainability for the construction industry. Throughout the design and construction, project teams and suppliers were encouraged to apply innovative techniques and best practice to deliver exemplary environmental performance. Vital Energi’s sophisticated underground pipe network installation taking waste heat from an existing combined heat and power plant provides T5 with 85% of its heat on demand resulting in significant CO2 emissions savings.”

Nick Stayt Project Leader, BAA

Project Overview

A new landmark for London, Heathrow Airport’s new Terminal 5 (T5) will be one of the world’s most exciting airport terminals. Due to open on 30 March 2008, BAA’s £4.3 billion investment will cater for around 30 million passengers annually and provide much needed terminal and airfield capacity to ease congestion and enable Heathrow to maximise use of its existing runways.

The Challenge

Committed to reducing greenhouse gases from its seven UK airports, BAA has embraced environmentally friendly policies as part of the T5 construction project. This includes identifying opportunities to invest in energy-efficient technology to reduce the impact of existing equipment installed at the airport. As a result of this, BAA commissioned energy consultants PB Power to conduct a study the results of which identified a significant source of surplus heat available from an existing Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system housed within the World Cargo Energy Centre of Heathrow airport that could potentially be used to heat T5.

Vital Energi has already carried out work at T5, working for one of BAA’s first tier suppliers installing pre-insulated pipework. Impressed with work their work, BAA appointed Vital Energi as a first tier supplier. Vital Energi’s role was to design, supply and install, test and commission approximately three kilometres of pipe network to distribute heat and hot water from the CHP plant within the World Cargo Energy Centre to a new Energy Centre within the T5 terminal.

The route of the pipeline crossed many chartered and uncharted underground buried services including high-pressure fuel and steam mains, gas and drainage pipelines and the airport fire main.

The Engineering team faced the challenge of installing pipeline underneath power, data and fibre cable critical to aircraft landing safely. For example the Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) - the navigational aids used by arriving aircraft at Heathrow - work by using radio beams to guide the pilots to land the aircraft safely. Extreme care had to be taken to ensure none of these cables were damaged under any circumstances.

Vital Energi's Solution

The installation utilises using Logstor’s 250mm diameter pre-insulated steel pipework. This type of pipe reduces heat loss and the number of joints used due to its superior insulation and flexibility, resulting in improved energy efficiency and lower maintenance. The infrastructure is further enhanced by the use of the “Band Muff” fusion welded joint system that can reduce the number of joints in piping networks and extend the design lifespan from 30 to 50 years. The majority of the pipeline runs through areas classed as ‘airside’ on the southern edge of the airfield, with the pipeline generally running just inside the perimeter fence.

Throughout the contract Vital Energi demonstrated the ability to cope with difficult and often demanding parameters. As part of working on the world’s busiest airport, some of the hurdles the engineering team faced required careful risk management.

Vital Energi demonstrated a commitment to the environmental regulations alerting BAA to the discovery of ducks nesting along the proposed pipeline route. Vital Energi worked closely with Ecologists to ensure that the nest was protected until the eggs had hatched. Attention was also paid to the installation just meters away from the Duke of Northumberland’s and Longford Rivers – collectively known as the Twin Rivers. These Rivers are home to many different species of rare plant and animal life, some of which are protected.


The scheme provides both economic and environmental benefits for BAA. The World Cargo CHP site will supply over 80% of T5’s heat demand resulting in an annual net benefit of over £500,000 mainly as a result of fuel savings at T5 plus additional savings from the Climate Change Levy at World Cargo. The capital cost of installing the pipeline would provide an investment payback of four years. There are also significant CO2 emissions savings of approximately 10,877 tonnes pa.


  • CO2 reductions of 10,877 tonnes pa
  • Financial savings of £500,000 pa
  • Environmentally friendly long term solution
  • Will provide new T5 building with 85% of its heat on demand