ABP/Multiplex Royal Albert Dock - Design In Progress

We are providing the design and build of the temporary energy solution for the Royal Albert Dock development utilizing specially designed pre-fabricated pipework sections to achieve an accelerated civils programme.


Project Overview

Royal Albert Dock is a mixed-use development located next to London City Airport. Developers, ABP, are creating London's next international business district on the 35 acre site as the gateway for businesses from Asia who want to reach new markets in Europe.

The first phase will supply approx. 46,000m2 commercial, retail and leisure space via a 2km district heating and cooling network, complete with heating and cooling substations located on the ground floor of each of the connected buildings.

In 2014, ABP appointed us as design consultants and we have worked alongside Hilson Moran, AKT II and world-renowned architects, Farrells as part of the Professional Design Team to devise an energy strategy in coordination with the rest of the site development. We began working on the RIBA stage 2 design in September 2015 and in 2017, we were awarded the full design and build contract for the construction of the temporary energy centre.

Vital Energi's Solution

We initially joined the Professional Design Team to develop the project through the RIBA stages, beginning with the concept design for the Masterplan. This eventually transitioned into a smaller solution to serve the first phase of the development with a temporary energy centre.

Flexible design to meet project requirements

We provided two design options of the energy centre for the developer to decide upon: the first option providing a temporary energy solution which can be integrated into the main energy centre to cater for the entire development, and the second providing a more financially beneficial temporary solution for the first phase.

The first design entailed furnishing the temporary energy centre with equipment that could be transferred to the permanent energy centre later in the development, with a view to providing the capacity to eventually serve the entire development in the most efficient means possible. This included two 5MW gas fired boilers operating in a duty/standby arrangement to generate low temperature hot water (LTHW). Due to the combination of a relatively small load and large boilers, we incorporated one 100m3 thermal store, located externally, with insulation and protective cladding. District cooling was proposed to be served via two 1.6MW air-cooled chillers and four 1.2MW air-cooled chillers.

The second option explored designing the energy centre to serve the first phase of the development only, and we undertook value engineering to reduce the capital expenditure associated with the first design. The aim was to potentially reduce the capital and installation cost and the temporary energy centre footprint. With the requirement to transfer the temporary energy centre plant and equipment to the main energy centre not applicable for this option, we revised the district heating and cooling demand analysis and peak loads with the rest of the professional design team. As a result, we proposed three 1.5MW boilers, removed the thermal store and reduced the length of the energy centre by 8 metres. The chiller configuration was also reduced to four 1.2MW air cooled chillers to supply the district cooling network which also reduced the area of the external compound. This was to the satisfaction of the client who chose this second design to gain the additional financial benefits and carbon emission savings this option provides.

Using specialist software and thorough planning to prevent any mistakes and maximise use of time

Due to the complex nature of all the existing underground services and building foundations we modelled the district heating and cooling network design using 3D AutoCad software usually associated with complex energy centre design. This helped to identify clashes with other subterranean services and building foundations, avoid mistakes and reduce remedial work. We planned to use pre-fabricated pipework sections which were specially created to reduce the number of on-site welds and achieve an accelerated civils programme. These pipes were developed in partnership with Logstor and was the first time we had used pre-fabricated pipework joints which dramatically reduced the timescales of the project.

The original coordinated infrastructure design was based on the district heating and cooling pipework being installed 5m below ground. However, we worked closely with all parties involved through a re-coordination process to reduce the depth across site to between 1-2.5m. This will allow easier access for future maintenance which would have proven to be problematic if the original 5m depth had remained.

We planned the design to suit our installation requirements, removing the potential of re-work or adaptability, which is often necessary when we are awarded a project at detailed design stage.  Undertaking the design from the initial stages meant that we were able to plan and implement necessary changes to best suit the project prior to installing the district energy network and energy centre.

Key Benefits

  • Collaborative key working relationships
  • Close communication to promote knowledge sharing
  • Value engineering study to reduce footprint and capital/installation costs
  • Utilising 3D design software to reduce coordination issues and shorten installation programme
  • Reducing project timescales through the use of prefabricated materials