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Gallery | 40m Manchester energy centre flue tower

A 40m flue tower and facade designed by Arup and architects Tonkin Liu will be built at a new Manchester energy centre.

The project named “The Tower of Light” will be made from 3 to 8mm thick laser-cut sheets that are curved and welded together and will support five 37m tall chimneys from the base of the new energy centre. It is the latest evolution in Shell Lace Structure designed by Arup and Tonkin Liu,  which has taken more than eight years of research. 

Vital Energi has been appointed as the preferred bidder to deliver the low-carbon energy centre and 2km district heating network, which the flue tower will serve. Heat created during electricity generation will be distributed through an underground network of pipes, and the electrical power generated will be distributed to buildings connected to the heat supply. 

Vital Energi account director Phil Mottershead said: “This is a very exciting time for Manchester and the start of what will be one of the UK’s major city centre heat networks. 

“The scheme will continue to grow and expand, offering low carbon heating and more affordable energy to local businesses at the heart of the city.

“We are delighted to be named as preferred bidder on the project and look forward to working closely with the council to deliver this flagship scheme which will continue to deliver benefits for decades to come.”

The network will connect buildings including Manchester Town Hall, Manchester Central Convention Centre, Central Library, Manchester Art Gallery, The Bridgewater Hall and Heron House.

In the day the tower will be lit naturally using steel reflectors that move in the wind to deflect sunlight into the towers chambers. At night LED lights will be directed towards the polished reflectors. 

Three other architecture practices - Hawkins Brown, Barfield and Marks and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios - were shortlisted to submit designs to a panel of council representatives and experts. The competition was comissioned by Vital Energi after a consultation found a typical flue or chimney structure was unsuitable due to the centre’s proximity to historic and culturally significant buildings. 

Works on the energy centre and flue are expected to start in spring next year after a final report is heard by Manchester City Council’s executive.

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