BIRSE CIVILS/ISG BIRSE CIVILS/ISG Woburn Forest Center Parcs Complete

Woburn Forest Center Parcs is the company’s fifth development and the first to incorporate a district heating network. The project marked a £250 million investment for the company and from the initial planning stages it was clear that they had put sustainability at the heart of their development.

“Vital Energi is delighted to have been awarded this prestigious contract and to be able to use our expertise to help Center Parcs realise its ambition of a more sustainable heating system for its new Woburn Forest holiday village.”

Ian Whitelock Joint Managing Director

Project Overview

Woburn Forest Center Parcs is the company’s fifth development and the first to incorporate a district heating network. The project marked a £250 million investment for the company and from the initial planning stages it was clear that they had put sustainability at the heart of their development.  

Woven into the fabric of the new Woburn Center Parcs project was a catalogue of renewable and sustainable energy solutions including solar photovoltaic, a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) centre, biomass boiler system and a district heating network connecting these technologies to the various buildings.

Center Parcs have a 25-year history of using sustainable technologies on their developments and their commitment to the environment saw them ranked as joint number one in the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) performance league table.

Key Benefits

  • Contributing to 25% reduction in carbon emissions compared to an average Center Parcs Village
  • Range of HIUs offers flexibility to architects and reliability to guests
  • Overcame substantial challenges with the terrain through innovative and creative solutions
  • Minimised impact on environment during installation
  • Faster than average installation with fewer joints and greater flexibility
  • Lower energy costs due to lower heat loss

The Challenge

Delivering sustainability on a development of this size called for a high level of expertise and logistical planning as the project would be using an estimated 1,200 contractors over the course of the development and when finished will include 625 low carbon lodges, a 75 bed hotel spa, indoor and outdoor sports facilities, restaurants, retails units and a swimming pool.  

Woburn Forest marked Center Parc’s most ambitious project to date, with the aim of using 25 per cent less energy than their average existing villages. This target could only be achieved by harnessing the latest, most energy efficient technologies and Vital Energi Generation & Vital Energi Networks were chosen to bring their considerable expertise to the project by installing and providing design support for the district heating network and installing their exclusive Vital Aqua Varm Hydraulic Interface Units.    

Vital Energi's Solution

The first stage of the project involved the installation of 18km of pre-insulated steel and plastic pipes throughout a diverse and challenging 375 acre site, an area equivalent to 210 Wembley pitches. The network connected the development’s biomass and CHP powered energy centre with the 625 lodges, hotel and various other buildings, allowing them access to the reliable and environmentally friendly heat.

The main spine of the district heating network and the branch points were made up of single steel pipe, with a flexible plastic twin pipe connecting the lodges. This twin plastic pipe allowed faster installation, as it involves less joints, and contributed towards meeting the tight deadlines, freeing up the trenches for other services contractors who would follow Vital Energi Networks. The pipe network comes with the most accurate alarm system on the market which can detect issues to within 1 metre, allowing easier, quicker maintenance.

Staying on schedule was essential as any delay created by Vital Energi would be passed on to the trades and services contractors who followed them into the trenches. Vital therefore held twice-weekly meetings with other contractors to ensure good communication and flow of information, allowing the schedule to progress.

Vital Energi Networks inherited a challenging predetermined route for the district heating,  in which  all the trees had protection orders on them. We placed exclusion zones around all trees in order to safeguard them and made use of a sky hook to deliver equipment with the least impact on the surrounding environment. A complex network of this size involved using a large amount of curved pipe which meant that trench work had to be delivered within extremely tight tolerances.

We also supplied our Hydraulic Interface Units (HIUs) which are the essential link between the district heat network and the consumer, providing instant heat and hot water. We worked closely with Center Parcs and its main contractors to create the ideal HIU cylinder series units.  

Depending on the size of the lodge, the HIUs had 150 or 300 litre cylinders, acting as a hot water storage tank, which provided immediate hot water with a high flow rate, an important factor in larger lodges with multiple bathrooms. The Cylinder units also offer additional security, providing hot water even in the unlikely event that there is an issue with the central system.  

The 150 litre HIUs came in both left and right handed versions, allowing for flexibility of installation.   

Creativity was key when it came to providing solutions to the challenges which presented themselves to the team.  Flushing through pipes prior to commissioning them required an innovative solution due to there being no mains drainage on site. To overcome this we created an environmentally-friendly flushing method using recycled water.


Center Parcs has long standing environmentally friendly credentials and their biomass energy centre, coupled with the district heating network, HIUs and other renewable technologies put them on target to meet their ambitious carbon reduction goals.

Communication was key as Vital Energi Networks worked on three contracts for Birse Civils, ISG and Center Parcs and also liaised with consultants and other companies to ensure that they stayed on schedule and all parties worked together effectively.

A decade in the planning this £250 million project now has a district heating network at the heart of its sustainable energy system which will effectively distribute reliable heat to the guests at Woburn Park. Vital Energi Networks involvement will continue well into the future, with a 5 year operation and maintenance contract now in place.