Behind the scenes at MediaCityUK

MediaCityUK, CHP, trigeneration

MediaCityUK is one of the first schemes in the world to become a BREEAM-approved sustainable community. Major features of this huge development including trigeneration CHP and integrating the Manchester Ship Canal into the environmental strategy.

MediaCityUK, the huge development on the Manchester Ship Canal at Salford Quays is starting to come to life. The first commercial phase, representing a £500 million investment by developers Peel Media is due to be completed during 2011.

Already the first show has been made for the BBC, which is to relocate 2300 employees to the site, from its new studio facilities, but this half-hour test show is not for broadcasting.

The first residents of the 378 apartments started moving in during the Spring of 2010, and a number of national and regional retailers will be open by the Summer of 2011.

While MediaCityUK is described by Peel Group as ‘a city designed around the media industry’ that brief is expected to range from TV producers to computer-game designers. The site will also accommodate a new higher education campus for the University of Salford accommodating around 700 students, a 216-bedroom hotel, 65 000 m2 of office space, 7500 m2 of retail space and 378 apartments. There are also seven high-definition television studios and two audio studios.

As Frank Mills, sustainable building design consultant for Sinclair Knight Merz, explains, this is a mixed-use development that can benefit from an approach to energy provision that exploits the diversity of demand. The site is also adjacent to the huge Manchester Ship Canal, which provides opportunities for heat rejection from air-conditioning plant and free cooling via large plate heat exchangers. In addition, there is a site-wide CHP system.

From the outset, BREEAM certification was sought for the project, but this site goes a stage further by becoming the first scheme in the world to become a BREEAM-approved sustainable community. BREEAM Communities certification is designed to help planners and developers improve measures and independently certify the sustainability of development proposals at the planning stage.

Carol Atkinson, chief executive of BRE Global, said, ‘MediaCityUK is the first project in the world to achieve final certification against BREEAM Communities. This is a testament to Peel’s commitment to achieving very high levels of sustainability on the development.

One of the most impressive features of the site is the trigeneration CHP system to provide electricity, heating and cooling via absorption chillers in Summer. Frank Mills explains, ‘In comparison to a conventional approach where boilers and chillers are located in each building, the trigeneration scheme provides a number of benefits — including phased installation, flexible operation and maintenance, adaptability for future proofing and changes in fuel sources.’

This trigeneration scheme is expected to achieve a 70 to 90% efficiency in the use of its primary fuel, natural gas, making it ‘good-quality CHP’. It is expected to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from the site by 20 000 t a year and annual energy costs by £560 000 once fully developed in 5 to 10 years’ time

At present there is one CHP unit with an electrical output of 2 MW and a heat output of 2 MW. Heat is distributed via an underground district-heating network, as is the heat from two 9 MW boilers fitted with Dunphy burners. At appropriate times of the year chilled water can be produced by a Thermax absorption chiller with a cooling capacity of 1.5 MW using heat from the district-heating network; it is expected to meet 20% of the cooling load, representing the base load.

The CHP system is designed to handle the site’s electrical base load, about 10 to 15% of maximum, enabling it to be run for about 17 hours a day, off peak electricity being cheaper to use between midnight and 7 am.

The Deutz CHP unit currently uses gas, but was chosen for its ability to be readily converted to use biogas (methane) in the future, which could be delivered to the site by the adjacent canal. At present, natural gas is by far the cheapest fuel, but options are being kept open for the future. Electricity from the CHP unit goes to the Peel switchboard as landlord.

MediaCityUK, CHP, trigeneration
A BREEAM-approved sustainable community — the huge MediaCityUK development in Manchester is now coming to life as occupants move in.

The extensive underground pipework system has been designed to cope with future load requirements on the site. There is 2 km each of flow and return pipework with a total capacity of 180 000 litres. That large volume of water provides sufficient thermal storage for current needs, but a thermal storage unit can be added later as demand requires. Take-off points are already provided along the pipework, which is fitted with a leak-detection system.

One benefit of the energy centre is a reduction in installed capacity compared with plant in every building. Frank Mills points out that this is perfectly compatible, with the mix of activities on the site with buildings being used at different times during a 24-hour day and at weekends.

The extravagant use of energy is discouraged by individual metering.

Plans for the future include anther CHP unit, two more boilers and another absorption chiller. Space has been provided for this expansion in the site’s energy centre.

The energy centre is being operated by Cofely GDF Suez and has already won an award from the Combined Heat & Power Association.

The exception to the central plant is the buildings that will be used by the BBC. They have their own gas supply and boiler plant because the BBC requires autonomy in its services and extra resilience. However, these buildings can draw on the output from the site’s energy centre and have their own absorption chillers. Those three buildings alone could amount to about a third of the energy consumption of the entire site. They also have their own standby power of 10 MVA.

The BBC always needs to be able to broadcast, and if all else failed it could operate for five to seven days with its own plant.

The efficient use of primary fuel and the resources of the canal to service buildings is only part of the story. The whole site has been carefully laid out to avoid the heat-island effect. Buildings are set out to permit air movement. There are green roofs, trees to provide shade and water features to provide evaporative cooling.

The development also has its own specially built station on the Metrolink tram system that serves Greater Manchester.

The project so far occupies 36 acres, but there are at least 200 acres more available for MediaCityUK to grow in the future.

There is scope for more innovation, and one that Frank Mills has in mind already is to roof over the car parks with solar PV to generate electricity once PV becomes cost effective.

Related articles:

modbs tv logo

New Sustainability Director for Wates Group

Wates Group, a family-owned development, building and property maintenance company, has appointed Cressida Curtis as its new Group Sustainability Director.

Domus Ventilation appoints new contractor sales managers

Ventilation systems manufacturer Domus Ventilation has announced the arrival of three new Contractor Sales Managers.