GI Energy is helping the Siemens Urban Sustainability Centre in London to cut carbon emissions and running costs with a renewable heating and cooling system that exploits the earth’s ability to store heat underground
The eye-catching glass building at Royal Victoria Docks in London has been designed to be a flagship centre of sustainability and in keeping with the building’s green credentials, the Ground Source Energy System installed in it by GI Energy is extremely energy efficient. It is now actually exceeding expectations after GI Energy’s engineers spent many weeks fine-tuning the operation of the system to optimise its efficiency.
One of the challenges they faced was the fact that the two heat pumps at the heart of the Ground Source Energy System were among the first of their kind and behaved differently from more conventional heat pumps. These ‘simultaneous heat pumps' can, as their name suggests, provide both heating and cooling at the same time, unlike conventional pumps that can only perform one of the two functions at a time.
Not satisfied with the initial performance of the system, GI Energy spent more than eight weeks trouble-shooting and making improvements to the computerised control systems for the heat pumps. The result is that the system not only provided heating and cooling in a very efficient manner, it actually exceeded expectations.
“The Siemens Urban Sustainability Centre is shining a spotlight on energy efficiency in urban design so we are delighted at how well the Ground Source Energy System there is operating now," said Chris Reilly, Director of GI Managed Services, the consultancy, commissioning and maintenance division of GI Energy. “While there were initial teething problems, the Ground Source Energy System is now so energy efficient that it is exceeding the client’s expectations.
“All of the thousands of visitors — from school children to post graduate students — who will go to the centre to learn about sustainable living will experience this truly renewable form of heating and cooling first-hand.”
GI Managed Services now has the contract to maintain and service the Ground Source Energy System, which provides 614kW of heating and 614kW of cooling — sufficient to heat the whole building. There are also back-up electric chillers to provide additional air conditioning if necessary.
Ground Source Energy Systems work by extracting heat from the earth. They comprise a network of underground pipes, called earth loops, which are connected to a series of heat pumps. Liquid pumped through the earth loops extracts heat from the surrounding ground. For cooling, the system is used in reverse. At the Siemens Urban Sustainability Centre some of the earth loops — there are 160 in total — were buried within the foundations of the building itself. In addition to these Energy Piles there were also 39 boreholes sunk to a depth of 150m.
The centre highlights a range of sustainable practices which, besides Ground Source Energy Systems, include rainwater harvesting, solar water heating, solar photovoltaic, natural ventilation, sustainable drainage, water-efficient landscaping and high-performance glazing.