Vital Energi’s work at King’s Cross has proven to be a game-changer when it comes to large-scale developments. By creating an energy solution which evolves alongside the project it has given the developers an added flexibility and set the template for how major construction projects are handled.
“Sustainability is integral to the place being created at King’s Cross. The site-wide district heating network plays a key part in our overall energy strategy and helps to make King’s Cross one of the most sustainable developments in London. We are very proud that working with Metropolitan and Vital Energi we have been able to deliver this important piece of infrastructure and that it is continuing to play an essential role in the high environmental performance of all of the buildings at King’s Cross.”
Clare Hebbes Senior Project Director at Argent
The development of King’s Cross is one of most ambitious urban transformations in Europe. When finished, the 67 acre site will deliver around 25 new office buildings, 20 new streets, 10 new major public buildings, the restoration and refurbishment of 20 historic buildings and structures and up to 2,000 new homes.
It has already delivered the creation of the largest new street in London for over a century and the largest public square since Trafalgar Square. The development is so big that it even has its own postcode – N1C.
King’s Cross is being developed by the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership which is made up of Argent King’s Cross Ltd, London & Continental Railways Ltd and DHL Supply Chain. Metropolitan King’s Cross Ltd is the energy services company (ESCo) and was charged with the task of delivering sustainable and affordable power and heating to the entire development.
The vision for King’s Cross has remained constant from its inception: To create a community with a long-term future that has minimal impact on the environment. The challenge was to provide an energy efficient and sustainable site without compromising the quality of living, or the availability of supply. This goal was made even more ambitious by Argent’s determination to cut carbon emissions by at least 50 per cent.
Providing the ideal, tailored solution for the circumstances is something which Vital Energi prides itself on and because the King’s Cross development was delivered in phases it was essential that we delivered an energy infrastructure which would evolve along with the construction work. This would allow the developers to delay capital expenditure and to ensure an appropriate generation capacity for the energy demand.
Vital Energi initially won the contract to install 2,000 metres of pre-insulated pipe to connect the CHP fuelled energy centre to all the new homes and buildings on the development. The community heat network has the lowest heat loss of any pipe on the market due to its superior insulation and Vital Energi’s exclusive Band Muff’™ fusion welded joint system which increases the pipe’s design life span from 30 to 50 years, the longest in the market, bringing lower maintenance costs.
As the project progressed, Vital Energi enjoyed a close partnership with the developers and worked closely with them to provide the most cost-effective solutions for the circumstances, contributing not just to the design and mechanical stage, but also the energy strategy for the development. An example of this was postponing the construction of the main energy centre during the initial stages of the development as it would be energy inefficient, require early capital investment and increase the maintenance costs of the scheme. In collaboration with MKC, Vital Energi designed and installed a temporary containerised energy solution which included gas boilers which could be transferred to the main energy centre or left intact and transported for use on another site or sold.
After creating a strong working relationship with the developers, Vital Energi later received the contract to design, supply and install the main T1 energy centre, which it will also operate and maintain for the next 25 years.
Today, the main T1 energy centre at King’s Cross houses two 2MWe Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engines and three 10MWt boilers. An additional 2MWe CHP engine will be added in the future to meet the increased energy demand.
The King’s Cross energy centre, which was built underneath a car park and had an irregular shape which presented several challenges. With a sloping roof and more than one level Vital Energi had to show extreme precision when installing the equipment which included two 16.7m thermal stores which each had a 2.5m diameter. Despite the tight confines of the energy centre Vital installed all the equipment to schedule and met the final deadline for completion.
Another of the huge challenges facing Vital Energi was designing an energy centre for a development which was largely unbuilt. This required an absolute understanding of the future plans for the development which would eventually include a 14 storey apartment block built on top of the energy centre.
In this instance Vital Energi designed three free standing chimneys which would serve the energy centre. Each of the chimneys had to be over 55 metres high to meet the Clean Air Act requirements and due to the proximity to the channel tunnel rail line they had to be built and designed to the very highest standards and underwent a 20 week safety review process. When the 14 storey block is finished the three free standing chimneys will be integrated onto the side of the building.
There was a clear desire to make King’s Cross a sustainable development and ambitious targets of reducing carbon emissions by 50% meant that the developers had to work with a partner to create reliable and creative solutions which would integrate and complement each other.
The energy centre is now at the heart of King’s Cross, providing 95 per cent of the heating and hot water and 79% of the electricity for the development. The success of the energy centre in powering King’s Cross has meant that they can confidently state that all homes will meet the Code for sustainable homes level 4 or above and that each office in the development will be BREEAM “Excellent” or above.
The King’s Cross development has proved so successful that it has been held up as a global beacon of what can be achieved on modern developments, attracting district heating experts and researchers from as far afield as Canada, Korea and Finland. Vital Energi worked in partnership with the developers for six years to support them and help achieve their ambitious energy goals, a relationship which is set to continue for the next 25 years.