Innovative solutions

Staffordshire Energy Recovery Facility, Wolverhampton

Energy Recovery Facilities (ERFs) are helping local authorities across the UK to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill and to meet their waste reduction and sustainable energy goals.



Tata Steel Projects (TSP) was lead designer on the Staffordshire Energy Recovery Facility at Four Ashes, Wolverhampton. It was one of the first new generation ERFs to be built in the UK. The facility can process 300,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste each year to produce 23 MW of energy providing power to 32,000 homes. Staffordshire County Council commissioned the Four Ashes ERF as part of its strategy to send zero household waste to landfill by 2020.

The design and delivery team, including clients, designers, contractors and operators, demonstrated an exceptional commitment to collaboration. The team worked together within the project alliance throughout the supply chain, with stakeholders and the local community.

The project employed several best practice techniques to increase efficiency, sustainability and reduce cost and waste. One of the most important being the innovative use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) to co-ordinate the work of the design teams, share information with stakeholders, and streamline the procurement and fabrication process.

The project faced two significant challenges: a large number of interfaces and a challenging programme which required several innovative solutions. Standard construction methods were revised to enable works to progress above ground before starting excavation, saving about a month on the programme. TSP developed a ’Z-Beam’ design for the reinforced concrete bunker to enable temporary works to be combined with the permanent structure and for one side of the bunker to be open for the waste tipping chute, saving time and construction costs.

Community support was essential for the successful completion of this project. A community liaison group met regularly for updates on construction and to discuss traffic and landscape alterations, environmental improvements and facility operations. The project included an on-site visitor centre to encourage interaction with the community. During construction the project team offered tours of the site and talks to school children and graduates.

The project team worked closely with the Environment Agency and Local Authority to protect and enhance the local environment, both in the design of the facility and in improvements to the surrounding area. The ERF building is topped with a ’living roof’ planted with species to help the building blend into the neighbouring area and to increase biodiversity. The project also instigated measures to manage surface water runoff and to protect the surrounding wetlands and newt population.

South Staffordshire College provided grazing cattle for this area and opportunities for students to perform biodiversity, habitat and species studies. The facility achieved a very good BREEAM score, the first ERF in the UK to do so.

The plant contains: a tipping hall where the trucks deliver waste, a reinforced concrete waste bunker, a boiler hall, a turbine hall and an ash storage area. There is also an administration block and Visitors Centre. At 40 m high, with a length of 155 m and 80 m wide, the building contains 1,400 tonnes of steel. All steel within the process areas was galvanized. With spans as high as 43 m, 6.5 m deep galvanized steel trusses were used with great effect in the boiler hall, with 31 m span faceted galvanized steel trusses used in the tipping hall.

Galvanized steel was perfect for this project as it allowed TSP to comply with the plants 60 year design life without having to perform costly and potentially dangerous maintenance. Gaining access to some areas of the plant steelwork would also be difficult with the amount of process equipment deployed.


Architect: Tata Steel Projects

Image: Tata Steel Projects

Posted on November 12, 2015 by untitled

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