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Energy from waste: Entente Cordiale

A joint venture made up of a British construction firm and its French partner is winning plaudits from clients in the energy from waste (EfW) sector. Produced in association with Lagan Construction Group.

There has been a building boom in the energy-from-waste (EfW) sector in the last five to six years, brought about by the advent of PFI funding models. As a result, in the UK the number of EfW plants - which transform domestic waste into energy capable of powering homes -has nearly doubled.

Companies like Suez and Viridor have acted as ambitious clients in the sector and their ambition has, in turn, been to the benefit of contractors like Lagan Construction Group and French energy and industrial specialist CNIM.

Working as a joint venture the two companies have recently delivered an EfW facility in Suffolk for Suez and a further facility in Cardiff for Viridor.
Lagan Construction Group operations director for civil engineering and piling, UK and Ireland John Cunningham thinks the experience gained on these projects is driving its ability to win new work in the sector.

Cardiff energy from waste

Cardiff energy from waste plant: Complex work in a confined urban site

“We’ve got the experience of two successful plants delivered on budget and on time, we’ve started a third and we’re a preferred bidder on two others,” he says.

According to Brendan O’Reilly, Lagan Construction Group’s senior project manager for the Suffolk Scheme, collaboration was crucial to the joint venture’s successful delivery of the project.

“There were major challenges,” he says. “At peak times we had up to 400 people on site from all over Europe, so we needed lots of close co-ordination to work safely.”

The fact that the project clocked up 1.6M man hours without an accident is testimony to the effectiveness of daily co-ordination meetings and effective planning. And all of this was achieved on an extremely constrained site with up to 10 cranes operating in close proximity.

The success of the project was recognised, first when it won silver and bronze Considerate Constructor Award, and then when it was recently shortlisted in the Civil Engineering Project of the Year (between £10M and £50M) category at this year’s British Construction Industry Awards.

The construction team has also earned the praise of the client. “It was altogether an excellent project delivered on time and on budget,” says Suez project director Jean Claude Sartenaer.

“Something we try to do on all our plants is to collect the rainwater, not only from the roof but also from the roads”

Jean-Claude Sartenaer Suez

“It’s to the credit of Lagan Construction Group that it was very good at engaging local companies and there’s a list of over 100 local firms that were involved in construction. We estimated that was worth £13.5M to the local economy.”

Lagan Construction Group used offsite, precast concrete elements to form the main walls of the ash building, helping to minimise complications on the constrained site.

Further efficiencies were generated by adapting the design. “About 10m below the site there’s an aquifer and there was a concern that the stone piles that were originally on the design could transfer
contamination down to the aquifer,” says O’Reilly.

“We surcharged the ground which meant that we had to load the ground with a 9m high surcharge of surplus material that we had on site anyway for a period of about 6 to 12 months at various locations. That negated 1,000 stone piles.”

Another client-driven innovation was to collect all of the rainwater on the site and channel it into a pond, an attractive feature at the front of the site, but with a practical purpose - the water is used in the energy-from-waste process and is also available if there is a fire.

Suffolk energy from waste

“Something we try to do on all our plants is to collect the rainwater, not only from the roof but also from the roads,” says Sartenaer. “This is so that it can be used as process water instead of town water.”

Sartenaer eulogises about the building’s aesthetic. The blue, louvre-clad structure was designed by Grimshaw Architects and the roof makes use of giant, transparent “pillows” to let natural light into the building, which has been designed to meet the Breeam “excellent” standard.

Viridor capital project and engineering director Alan Cumming says the brief for the second of the Lagan/CNIM joint venture’s EfW projects - Viridor’s energy recovery facility at Trident Park in Cardiff - was equally futuristic. This project has been shortlisted for the Major Building Project of the Year (over £50M) in this year’s British Construction Industry Awards.

“It’s built within the Trident Park industrial park which is very close to the city centre of Cardiff - it’s state of the art really. The thing is that although it is an industrial estate, the whole area is being transformed, and this is part of that,” he says.

The £200M plant, which will take most of South Wales’ waste for the next 25 years and generate roughly 30MW of power, was delivered under a lump-sum, turnkey contract.

Lagan Construction Group project director Mike McGuire says the company adopted the same JV structure as it had for the Suffolk project.

“We relied upon CNIM to deal with the process works and Lagan Construction Group to deal with the civil engineering works,” he says. “It was a design and construct package partnership within the framework of the CNIM Lagan joint venture which was an EPC contract from Viridor.”

“The civil engineering industry has come a long way in 20 years and I think the 2012 Olympics helped that”

Alan Cumming, Viridor

McGuire’s team was on site for approximately nine months before process works commenced and although the project was over 32 months, there were a series of internal milestones to meet.

“Lagan Construction Group had to prepare areas so that they could be handed over for a period of time for CNIM to do works in those areas,” he says. “There were nine of those intermediate exchange dates we had to work around and co-ordinate so the process work could carry on in parallel with the civils work.”

3D modelling proved important in enabling this co-ordination in what was, again, a constrained site with multiple cranes operating. “There was quite a lot of complexity in the design because there was a multitude of design teams involved,” says McGuire. “We ourselves had civil design and M&E design teams - CNIM had a series of process design teams as well, including their own teams in Paris.

“We ran a series of clash detection workshops to examine the model collectively and make sure what they were developing didn’t create problems for the other teams - that helped a lot.”

Despite not normally being a fan of joint ventures, Cumming couldn’t be happier with the way the project went. Like Sartenaer he was also pleased with the way CNIM and Lagan engaged with the local community and the local supply chain.

“I would say this is a really unusual case where everybody is happy - where the job went well and our end client was happy as well - the Welsh First Minister opened the plant a couple of months ago,” he says. “Cardiff was completed with a world class safety record, on schedule and on budget, and not many £200M jobs do that in the UK.”

Viridor’s satisfaction with the project means it has given the CNIM Lagan JV the green light to start a further £220M EfW project at Beddington near Croydon in London.

“It’s a really good example of where, if the contractor does what they say, when they say, and most importantly does it safely, then there’s more work for them,” says Cumming.

He thinks that for projects like this, small, or rather medium, is beautiful. “The responsiveness from the small- to medium-sized companies is actually far greater than the larger companies,” he adds. “The civil engineering industry has come a long way in 20 years and I think the 2012 Olympics helped that. You don’t have the same union issues that you get in the M&E trades and the innovation is clear.”

In association with

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