Research into an energy-saving heating system adopted by Cementation Foundations Skanska that draws on the earth’s natural resources through a building’s foundations has won research funding support from the Government.
The Department of Trade and Industry’s Partners in Innovation initiative comes as Skanska’s ground engineering specialist has completed its second UK contract to install geothermal piling.
The latest work was carried out on behalf of main contractor Haymills, which is building a new wing to the Pallant House fine art gallery in Chichester. Cementation Foundations Skanska installed 60 rotary-bored bearing piles 25 metres into the ground, with each one carrying flexible plastic piping that will be linked up to form a network conveying natural thermal energy into the new building from underground.
Fluid in the pipes will feed into circuits embedded in the floors and walls of the structure, transferring natural energy from the soil, which remains around 10 to 13 degree Celsius all year round.
As well as saving fossil fuel energy, the new system removes the need for bulky plant rooms like those required for conventional heating and cooling systems – a key consideration at Pallant House, a restored Queen Anne building occupying a cramped site in the historic town centre.
As well as providing an economical and emission-free source of heating in winter, the constant subterranean temperature can help keep the building’s occupants cool in summer, through the excellent thermal conductivity and storage properties of the concrete piles.
At Pallant House, Cementation Foundations Skanska will be using the same proven rotary piling method it adopted to install its first geothermal system for a new six-storey block at the multi award winning Keble College, Oxford, where technical manager Tony Suckling worked closely on design development with the Austrian patent-holders.
Now the company is collaborating in a two-year research project led by consulting engineers Arup and involving the DTI, the Environment Agency, and the Universities of Birmingham and Newcastle, aimed at assessing the full effects of geothermal energy.
For its part, Cementation Foundations Skanska will be assessing various other techniques such as CFA and driven piling to identify which works best with the geothermal system.
Said Tony Suckling: “No-one else in the UK has done anything on this scale before, so we are delighted to have secured another significant contract and to be participating in research on this unique method. It comes at a crucial time, as the Government recently unveiled its commitment to the development of natural resources to meet the nation’s future energy targets.”