In the English city they have finished the most ecological construction, a plant that provides clean energy to six important buildings.
Nothing can determine, for sure, the future of cities. And it is that it is inventiveness and human imagination that will change our most direct environment, along with, obviously, the bureaucratic tangle that the city in particular “enjoys”. Thus, everything is chance and indeterminacy. And to our comforting and meritorious sense of envy, the city of Manchester has found a new icon: the Tower of Light (there’s that).
A tower that supplies clean energy to six buildings in Manchester
Manchester City Council and Vital Energi launched an ambitious project in 2009 to provide clean energy to various buildings in the city. Specifically to the civic quarter of Manchester. The buildings that will initially benefit from clean energy will be: City Hall, the Central Library, the Central Convention Center, Bridgewater Hall, the Heron House and the Art Gallery.
The building finished its construction in February 2022, and has already started to supply heating to the Convention Center; inaugurating the energy milestone that has cost about 24 million pounds (28.60 euros, which is not little). The landmark is made up of a power creation center and the tower that houses the chimneys. The plant, which features a 3.3MWe CHP engine and two 12MW gas-fired boilers, is expected to save the city some 1,600 tons of carbon emissions each year.
A cutting-edge and functional design
But, one of the issues that undoubtedly determined the creation of the center was the dynamic conception of its design. It was made by Tonkin Liu, one of those architectural studios that engages with nature beyond classical standards.
For the power plant, they envisioned a biomimetic tower (identifying with nature), hiding the chimneys in plain sight; and a vibrant wall of tiles with organic shapes, which shows the interior of the plant.
Beautiful fireplaces by day and by night
The property is, on its own merits, a success of which all those involved are very proud. Of course, the company in charge of engineering, the multinational Arup. Inside, modern machines help create and distribute clean energy; On the outside, a 40-meter-high tower protects the chimneys with a unique metallic skin designed to resist the onslaught of weather.
The most incredible peculiarity of the tower is that the steel sheets that cover it are only between 3 and 8 millimeters thick; what a priori might seem like a very scarce body. However, the pattern and shape give them high resistance, also allowing them to be very light. They have been cut by laser, welding on large surfaces that were placed in situ, achieving, in the end, an enormous cylindrical body with a beautiful fracture.
The Tower of Manchester: design, ventilation and light
The Shawton Engineering company put two of its most outstanding to carry out the most complex tasks, experts in stainless steel (or unforgettable as some say). The perforated steel allows ventilation and light to enter, but also, its beautiful composition, which changes as the height increases, allows thousands of LED lights (always LEDs) to bathe the skies in light at night. city.
Significant parametric design work has led Tonkin Liu, together with Arup, to create the Shell Lace Structure system, with which the tower was calculated and executed. Obviously, the oval plan of the tower, and the folds of the sheet, give extra rigidity, in addition to the internal reinforcement. This means that the cost of material is much lower, and more aesthetic, it must be said, cooler, to understand each other.
Light, a fundamental point
Inside the tower, some reflectors capture sunlight during the day, transferring it inside and also supplying the necessary energy for the night light show. But the tower is not the only spectacular element of the property. Its lower body, 63 meters long, is dressed in 1,373 fantastically designed ceramic pieces, tiles that look like scales, or sea waves, or any natural element you can imagine.
The ceramic factory, called Darwen Terracotta, prepared up to 31 different molds to manufacture the pieces. Thus, the wavy shape changes according to the height of the wall. The pieces are mechanically fastened to the back wall, allowing a free joint between them that guarantees their expansion and light output, giving life to the whole at night. A huge window shows the bowels of the industry to all curious who pass by.
Here is a beautiful urban story, a unique envelope that marks a milestone in the city, promoting one more step towards the famous and desired zero carbon emission. An enclosure that stands out for two very different but durable materials, two timeless materials in construction: steel and ceramic. Bravo to them, who have known how to change over the years to continue to be leaders and, of course, allow such a Cool design!!
Photos courtesy of David Valinsky.