Kingspan Thermomax provides answer to horizontal challenge

Published:  13 October, 2016

Home of the Northern Ireland parliament in Belfast, Stormont has recently undergone a major refurbishment.

The building itself has changed little over the years (it was opened in 1932) and therefore presented an interesting design and installation challenge - including a completely new plumbing and heating system that provides catering and washing facilities on a daily basis for over 1000 people.

As a prominent public sector institution, renewable low carbon energy had to be specified as a required element of the new building envelope. Although, in fact, the huge expanse of flat roof space, orientated north/south with minimal shading, lent itself ideally to solar thermal panel technology, the essential calculation of the maximum annual hot water demand, bearing in mind possible seasonal discrepancies (e.g. lower winter output), was critical. When it came to demonstrating the green credentials of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the hybrid system would not only have to deliver sufficient hot water but also give the expected return on an investment entirely funded from the public purse.

Being such a prestigious project, the stakes were high to deliver a cost-effective solution, on time and within budget. The partnership of renewables manufacturer, Kingspan Thermomax (part of Kingspan Environmental Ltd), mechanical consultancy Bennett Robertson Design and installation contractor, Dublin based Alternative Energy Ireland, provided all the necessary expertise and resource to design, specify and build a solar thermal hot water system that successfully met every project criterion. At the 2016 Action Renewables Association Awards, the Northern Ireland Assembly won first place as the best renewables installation within the Education, Healthcare and Public Sector.

Flexibility was a key requirement for the solar array solution because of the structural challenge presented by the 85-year-old flat roof. As the name ‘House on the Hill’ suggests, high winds had to be factored in because of the location of the building, meaning that solar panels were laid effectively flat, at 2° to the horizontal, as opposed to standing at the usual 35° angle to the roof. The compromise in energy output was deemed acceptable when set against potential wind damage to the collectors.

According to Finbarr McCarthy, Specification Design Manager at Kingspan Environmental “the Thermomax DF400 direct flow evacuated tube collector can be installed at inclinations as low as 2°, which makes it particularly suitable for installations where the aesthetics of a building might be negatively impacted by the presence of a standard inclined solar thermal collector array”. The actual height of the building required 40m of pipework, utilising an existing service shaft, to link the rooftop array with the plant room located in the basement. The 1000 litre calorifier was supplied pre-plumbed by Kingspan Thermomax, along with the controls pack.

“The Kingspan Thermomax team was delighted to work with such a progressive and innovative design practice like Bennett Robertson Design. They had very clear ideas as to their requirements for the solar thermal circuit. The detailed hydraulic and collector layout designs for this project ensured that all ancillary components were sized for maximum efficiency and effectiveness”, adds Finbarr.

A two stage installation and commissioning process took only two weeks which, because of the extensive consultation period and design support from the Kingspan specification team, was problem free:

Managing Director of AEI, Steven Bray agrees that the project partnership had the right blend of know-how and innovation for this challenging installation that was under a lot of public scrutiny. “We always choose to work with Kingspan as we find the quality of the products are second to none plus the fact that their technical staff are involved with the project from initial specification right through to completion.” he says, adding “they are always available and able to deal with any question or on-site problem. Typically, you will find Kingspan Thermomax product being used on the more ‘interesting’ projects because of its flexibility and reliability”.

For further information visit www.kingspanthermomax.com

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