The Greenwich Peninsula is one of London’s major urban development areas, including 15,700 new homes, over 300,000 m² of office space and the conversion of the former Millennium Dome into the indoor arena renamed The O2.
Responding to a drive to increase the use of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) across the UK and to realize a vision of decentralized energy power generation in London, the Greenwich Peninsula Low Carbon Energy Centre houses technically advanced boilers and CHP that provide heat energy to the businesses and homes due to be built on the Peninsula in the coming years. This also forms part of the Peninsula’s Sustainability Strategy.
The Energy Centre is the largest new build residential heat network in Europe, saving over 20,000 tonnes of carbon every year.
The 3000 m² Low Carbon Energy Centre, situated in a prominent location at the entrance to the peninsula, adjacent to the Blackwall Tunnel Approach, is a highly visible and important new landmark that demonstrates the applicants’ and stakeholders’ commitment to sustainable and affordable energy for all.
Designed by British artist Conrad Shawcross, the cladding of the 49 m-high stack tower unites sophisticated engineering and complex optic research to create an impressive sculptural concept on a huge scale.
The cladding for the structure is formed of hundreds of triangular panels that fold and flow across the surface of the tower forming complex geometric patterns that visually break up the flat planes to create an uneven, sculpted surface that plays with the vanishing points and perspective.
The panels are perforated so as to exploit the phenomena of the moiré effect, large scale interference patterns, and at night an integrated lighting design produces a shifting series of ‘compositions‘ lit from within the structure.
Prepared for the future
To demystify the process of energy generation, the Centre’s machine room and flexible ancillary office accommodation is supplemented with a Visitor Centre offering an interactive educational experience for prearranged groups of visitors. Construction started in 2015 and was completed in 2016. The building footprint further allows for flexibility in adopting new energy technology over the building’s substantial lifetime. A combination of galvanized steel and intumescent painted galvanized steel was used within the plant romm and Visitor Centre.
Construction of the flue tower
The structure measures 20 m-wide and 3 m-deep and is constructed from five interconnected steel ladder frames that are clad with perforated aluminum panels, each the size of a London bus. These triangular panels fold across the surface of the tower forming intricate geometric patterns that create a dynamic, sculpted surface.
The tensile strength of steel, coupled with its ductility, made steel the obvious choice as it enabled the creation of a strong but slim and highly perforated structure. In addition to the structural properties of the material, the industrial aesthetic of steel lent itself to the historical context of Greenwich Peninsula. The cross-bracing inherent to the structure echoes the lattice work of the neighbouring gas holder dating from 1886.
Due to the nature of the flue tower’s perforated cladding, the steelwork is exposed to the elements. For this reason, all the steelwork has been galvanized to guarantee long-term corrosion protection. The ladder sections were galvanized after being assembled.
The flue tower was fabricated and delivered to site as fully assembled ladder sections. There are five ladders in total and each one arrived onsite in three pieces, which after being lifted into place and bolted up formed one 49 m-high section. The 3 m-wide ladders are spaced at 4.5 m centres and are connected by a series of diagonal cross members. Large nodes on the ladders accept these cross members with some nodes accepting up to eight members.