New rowing centre offers comfort and efficiency

Published:  01 August, 2018

Cambridge University, Gemco Intelligent Buildings Group, Trend, Steve Browning
The exterior of the new facility for three rowing clubs

Located on the River Great Ouse in Ely, the new Cambridge University Boathouse is a state-of-the-art facility that acts as a centre of excellence for rowing. It aims to use energy as efficiently as possible and maintain perfect comfort conditions for occupants and users.

Until recently, Cambridge University’s three rowing clubs – the Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC), Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club (CUWBC) and Cambridge University Lightweight Rowing Club (CULRC) – were based in different locations and they had to make do with less than adequate facilities. However, following formation of Project Ely to raise funds, CUBC was able to purchase a site on the River Great Ouse in Ely for a new boathouse, which brought the three clubs together.

The bulk of the funds for the new boathouse came from over 450 alumni and friends of the three clubs, which raised nearly £5m.

Charles Rowley at the Cambridge University Boathouse, explains, ‘It took eight years to reach completion from the original concept, with the build itself taking over two and half years, including one year of enabling works and a further year of construction. Now it isan ecologically intelligent and comfortable environment that not only serves as the main training base for Cambridge University Rowing, it is also open as a venue for rowing camps and corporate events.

Facilities management

Rowers at this level are all finely tuned athletes and the facilities at the Cambridge University Boathouse are designed to help them compete on a world class basis. The two storey building features cutting edge training facilities, comfortable recreational space, kitchen, showers, changing areas, drying room and a self-contained flat, as well as an area to house up to 50 rowing boats.

While having first class facilities was considered important at the planning stage, so too was the creation of an energy efficient building that could offer athletes the type of conditions that can enhance their performances. As a result, the project’s main contractor asked East Grinstead-based Gemco Intelligent Buildings Group to design a building energy management system (BEMS) that could address these requirements.

Jason Graystone, Gemco’s managing director, says: “After conducting a site study, we configured a design that would also allow the BEMS to integrate with the gas absorption heat pump, which supplies heating to the Cambridge University Boathouse, as well as the air based ventilation system.”

Achieving the level of integration required led to a solution that utilised the Modbus protocol to link the BEMS to the gas absorption heat pump and ventilation system. Modbus is an open protocol that is standard for connecting industrial electronic devices.

Size matters

A Trend Open Network Node (TONN) enables Trend IQ4E controllers to interface with Modbus. Steve Browning, partner and end customer marketing communications manager at Trend, says: “When it comes to the amount of room allocated for BEMS in modern buildings, the size of its constituent parts really does matter. Large controllers take up more room in electrical enclosures but Trend continues to lead the way in reducing the footprint of its controllers without compromising on features.”

Jason Graystone adds: “By interfacing the BEMS using Modbus, the IQView8 user interface can display information in granular detail. This has numerous analytical benefits and diagnostic advantages, as the rich data provided allows internal processes to be monitored so that events such as sensor, electrode or pump failure is reported to the end user. It also speeds up repair by ensuring that the correct engineer and parts are sent to site, while, from an operational point of view, it allows plant to operate on a demand led basis.”

Explaining how this works, he continues: “Analogue values allow the controls to modulate instead of stage or switch – in other words, the system is demand-led and where specific areas need different levels of heat or ventilation, this can be achieved. As well as saving energy it enhances comfort conditions and occupancy health and wellbeing – something that is particularly important for athletes.”

Cambridge University, Gemco Intelligent Buildings Group, Trend, Steve Browning
Room with a view: the Cambridge University Boathouse interior

Speed with efficiency

The efficient operation of plant has also been achieved by installing variable speed drives (VSDs) which match the motor speed to the required tasks.

“The energy cost savings as a result of this technology can be significant, as a centrifugal pump or fan running at 80% speed consumes only half of the energy compared to one running at full speed,” says Graystone.“Varying the energy load ofpumps also lowers wear and tear and therefore the frequency of maintenance – saving up to 25% cost over the plant’s lifetime.” The IQView8 touchscreen display at the Cambridge University Boathouse allows authorisedpersonnel to better understandplant and energy usage, monitorthe BEMS in real time and make adjustments whenever necessary.It can also be configured to receive alarms sent from other Trend devices, where they appear on a special display, with an audiovisual indication of the alarm given.

Other features include enhanced efficiency via an energy saving mode. This allows the screen to be programmed to switch off and when in this mode the unit’s LED goes green to indicate that it is still powered on and will illuminate again as soon as it is touched.

Gemco is proud of its ability to work in close partnership with clients and other relevant parties working on a project.

The Cambridge University Boathouse was a notable example where Gemco used its project management tool, Cycle Management Process, to help ensure that everything ran smoothly and enabled better cooperation between the team.

Graystone says: “ This online software application documents every step of a project – from procurement and design to delivery, installation and handover.”

All those working on a project including main contractors, subcontractors and suppliers can access relevant information through the system.

In addition, Gemco has introduced a video handover guide for each site, which clients can refer to at any point in the future if a query arises and negates the need for costly engineer callouts.

Finish line

Client Charles Rowley concludes, “This project took many years of commitment and hard work to reach fruition but we’re confident that we now have a facility that will last at least 100 years.

Not only does the facility look great, we know that thanks to Trend’s BEMS technology and Gemco’s engineering excellence, it is highly energy efficient and can offer Cambridge University’s rowers and visitors maximum levels of comfort and wellbeing.”



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