University of Liverpool Heating Infrastructure
by Levitt Bernstein


London office Levitt Bernstein have completed an energy centre for the University of Liverpool in the UK, clad in diamond-shaped aluminium scales.

The new building has five pitched roofs, while glazed sections alternately reflect the surrounding listed buildings and allow glimpses of the machinery inside.

Called University of Liverpool Heating Infrastructure Project, the building houses a new energy system that links two existing networks to provide hot water for the whole campus.

The information that follows is from the architects:

University of Liverpool Heating Infrastructure Project

This project sees the construction of a new, central energy centre to serve the whole of the University of Liverpool’s campus. The design of the new building responds to its sensitive location, within the University’s historic core, and on the principal circulation spine linking the north and south campuses.

The incremental growth of the University had resulted in a system with two separate high temperature hot water systems, operating at different conditions, and leading to inefficiencies in the operation and management of the estate. One was based around a gas turbine–powered combined heat and power plant – the first such installation in a British university when installed in 1985 – and the second was a conventional boiler plant dating from 1966.

A single high temperature hot water system has been constructed, based around the two existing distribution networks. A first contract, undertaken in 2007, linked the two systems, and the second has created a new single energy centre, providing high temperature hot water to the whole campus, with some standby capacity to allow for one boiler to be unavailable for any reason during heating periods.

The site for the new energy centre was previously used for car parking, and is located adjacent to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary buildings recently acquired by the university. It is therefore situated in a sensitive and historic part of the campus, surrounded by listed buildings between the Waterhouse-designed Victorian hospital and the historic core of the university.

The three hospital ward wings terminate with arched balconies facing Dover Street. The new building refers to this context, forming a fourth wing and third courtyard, and repairing the previously disjointed and unsatisfactory urban realm. Its glazed facade facing Dover Street responds to the inset arched balconies and provides tantalising glimpses of the massive boilers, pumps, ducts and valves within the energy centre.

An unusual design solution was needed to satisfy the brief, programme and context of the project. The programme required a planning consent before the final choice of principal plant could be made, whereas only then would the precise size, maintenance and ventilation requirements of the gas engine and boilers be known. We therefore developed a cladding system which avoided the need for any conventional louvres or ventilation grilles, and which can be dismantled to provide access for maintenance and replacement.

The diamond-patterned aluminium cladding is profiled to permit ventilation at any point. Its scale, texture and colour respond to the historic context, which is characterised by a varied roofscape of pitched roofs and facades decorated by openings, string courses and cornices. Overall the new building sits easily beside its Victorian neighbours, without copying any of their materials or details. Depending on lighting conditions sections of glazing permit reflections of adjacent facades, or allow views into the energy centre.

The new energy centre includes a 4 million voltampere natural gas powered combined heat and power plant, comprising of 3x12Mw boilers and a 3.4Mw(e) gas engine.

Removal of redundant plant and alterations, adaptations and extensions of the buried High Temperature Hot Water (HTHW) system to link the south campus to the combined heat and power plant (CHP) have transformed the district heating mains network for the whole campus. High and low grade waste heat from power generation is recycled for domestic hot water and to improve the efficiency of heating buildings during peak demand. An estimated 6,700 tonnes of CO2 will be saved annually

Posted on Monday March 29th 2010 at 3:59 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • slater

    Fantastic, i love the glazed ends and the texture that the folded metal panels create! The combination of texture on a simple mass is very nice.

  • gab xiao

    Sarah Wigglesworth redux; the easiness of cladding with scales an industrial building gives me the creeps… here is a recurring motif (alas!, grasshopper and paracloud to blame for others’ lack of inspiration) that not only trivializes the context but also suffocates it with patterned abbundancy.

    I find it completely unsuitable for an industrial building and the surrounding campus. A merely flummoxing loud statement.

  • The use of simple forms and textures is quite refreshing compared to most of the contemporary designs that we see today fetishizing form over substance. I had hoped this structure went on forever, the lonely five bays leaves me wanting more.

  • cacas

    this is all?? plans..cuts…interior .. please.

  • junior

    gab, 99% of those parametric models don’t get built, the cladding on this building looks well resolved and overall looks dam cool, if not too cool for a boiler room

  • Abhi

    beautiful.crisp geometry on the facade

  • Jonathan

    like how the fins reflect light. However, the scales looks like the esplanade in Singapore!

  • I find it completely unsuitable for an industrial building and the surrounding campus. A merely flummoxing loud statement.

  • witness

    A bit late, I know.

    I worked for this office while the 'scale' facade was being developed.

    I know for a fact that it was designed not through 3D modelling buy through a series of cardboard models.

    So there!


    • Michael Irwin

      This facade was manifactured by the architectural division of NES Solutions. Detailed 3D drawings of the facade formed part of this. I have just loaded these model screenshots onto the project page.
      Feel free to contact me directly for more information on this or any other architectural cladding jobs.
      We are doing some interesting things with pre anodised aluminium at the moment.