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Arresting Development

15 June 2006

Harnessing the earth’s ambient temperature has enabled the new Gloucestershire Constabulary HQ to drastically reduce its energy costs while providing a modern facilities for the Police. Jane Fenwick visited the PFI funded building outside Gloucester

GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO GENERATE 40 PER CENT of your energy needs from a ‘free’ source at a time of rising costs for fuel from all other sources, few would turn the offer down. Gloucestershire Constabulary is already enjoying this benefit at its new Waterwells HQ at Quedgeley on the outskirts of Gloucester. Beneath its car park, 150 boreholes have been driven 98m into the ground to capture the earth’s ambient temperature to provide under floor heating and air cooling to the 8,500 sq m building in what is Europe’s largest geothermal heating installation. This energy saving, natural system has a lower long term running costs of up to 40 per cent than a conventional heating and cooling system.

The PFI funded building provides a new HQ for the Gloucestershire Constabulary with modern, fit for purpose facilities for policing that include not only a suite of offices for the chief officers but also scientific support laboratories, incident rooms and an emergency centre, with the capability of housing a strategic command centre and training facilities. For the 360 police and civilians working there, the building offers light, open plan facilities with plenty of opportunity to meet formally and informally in the break out areas on each floor, as well as in the street and café on the ground floor. There is also a sports hall and gymnasium.

This is all a far cry from the HQ it has occupied since 1965 and various other 1960’s built buildings they used to occupy in Cheltenham town centre which were too small and in a poor state of repair, and too expensive to refurbish to meet modern policing needs. Furthermore with plans for what is called locally, the GTEC project – the Gloucestershire Tri-service Emergency Centre for the police, ambulance and fire services - already planned at Waterwells together with the Tri-fleet workshops to maintain the services’ vehicles, a move to the business park environment near Quedgeley was a clear option for operational reasons.

The PFI route was chosen with consortium formed by Reliance Secure Task Management and Halifax Bank of Scotland in an £18m project.Former Police Inspector and the project managerfor the Police strategy to relocate to new facilities through the PFI route, Keith Hodges said, “PFI was the only game in town.” Hegained Home Office approval for the PFI in 2002, financial close came two years later in April 2004 with building starting that June.

UK Project management Services and RSM Robson Rhodes LLP represented and advised the consortium, EC Harris acted as technical advisor to the Bank. Britannia Construction built the facility and MITIE Engineering Services installed the M&E services.

Now the Facilities Manager at the HQ employed by FM service providers, Reliance Secure Task Management, Hodges has seen the project through all its stages. He recalls that the Chief Constable said he wanted people who used the building to be “inspired to stay in the building”, for it to enhance the fitness and life styles of the Police and civilian staff and to be flexible, to provide for further growth ofdepartments and better communications within the organization.

Being environmentally ‘friendly’ was also part of the mix. As well as providing a strong visual statement with its arched steel and glass design the building makes optimum use of daylight which, together with the low carbon geothermal solution, has helped to minimize the environmental impact of this 24 hour facility.

McBains Cooper’s solution to the demand for a low energy building but one that also had comfort cooling was a geothermal heat pump installation. Based on geothermal ground loop with two bore fields totaling 150 boreholes reaching a depth of 98m in a closed loop configuration, the installation provides for the peak cooling demand of 765kW together with peak heating demand of 646kW.

According to Anthony Coumidis, Director of Engineering Services at McBains Cooper, “The geothermal solution was the only way to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’ using mechanical ventilation. A geothermal system will generally produce energy savings of 30-40 per cent when compared to a conventional air-conditioning system. When the solar shading and enhanced fabric insulation are taken into account, the building is expected to have a carbon rating of 13.5kg/C/m2/year, which is 5kgC/m2/year lower than a comparable air-conditioned building.”

It was a bold decision both by the architect, Police Authority and the consortium since geothermal technology is largely untried on this scale in the UK. A ground breaking project in terms of the use of the technology and the scale of the installation, it has proved to be the launch pad for other environmentally-friendly solutions based on geothermal technology undertaken subsequently by McBains Cooper and Geothermal International.

In essence, the geothermal heating systems works like a refrigerator, explained Dr Roger Macklin of Geothermal International. “It comprises nine heat pumps some in heating mode and some in cooling mode. The ground loop systems comprises 30 miles of pipe driven vertically into the ground. At 1.5m below ground level, the earth’s temperature is 12ºC and on average it takes about 10m of piping to get 1 kW of heating and cooling.”

Nine pumps housed in the top floor plant room at in the Police HQ generate 100kW each. The hot water loop delivers heated water from the ground at 45-50ºC to the building, while in cooling mode, the cold water delivers cooled water to 7ºC. Once used for underfloor heating or air cooling, the return flow is can be at -2 to –4ºC requiring the water to be mixed with Propylene glycol – an antifreeze solution – to stop the system freezing up.

The beauty of the geothermal system is that as well as providing a constant source of heat and cooling at a constant price, the underground installation is maintenance free. The additional cost of the installation was expected to be paid back within 10 years; now with higher oil prices, the payback period is estimated to be from 6-7years.

The building incorporates a grey water harvester facility that collects rainwater and recycles it for use for all non-consumable purposes in the building such as in the toilets and washbasins. An intelligent lighting system using photocell presence detectors which gives light for late workers locally to their desk and adjacent corridors, has been installed and staff are encouraged to share journeys to work in a green transport scheme. Together, all these initiatives have earned the Gloucestershire Constabularies HQ an ‘excellent’ BREEAM rating.

Improving IT was also a key objective and in a separate deal with ntl:Telewest Business, an IP infrastructure delivering high capacity VoIP and a data network initially at Waterwells that will be rolled out in future to the full 2,100 workforce located at 51 WAN sites across the county. The technology footprint at the HQ building has resilient LAN switching including 10GB Ethernet uplinks, IP telephony integrated with GPA’s legacy iSDX PBX network and voicemail platform, Cisco Extension Mobility to enable personalized number allocations, WAN switching and network management.

Police background
The move to the new facility also provided the Police with an opportunity to ensure that the building is professionally managed for the 30 year term of the PFI by Reliance Secure Task Management, specialists in the management of police and custodial facilities. However, Hodges says he is the first FM with a Police background taken on by Reliance, a fact that he feels has been invaluable in the smooth development and handover of this facility. His knowledge and understanding of the Police culture and operational demands has been put to good use and is undoubtedly a positive factor in developing acceptance and respect for the FM services for the building.

Hodges team includes two site engineers, three full time janitors, a receptionist, three parttimecleaners, a help desk operator and supervisor, administrative assistant, and two central registry or ‘post room’ staff. Services provided include front of house, porterage, security including manned and CCTV monitoring, cleaning and waste management, landscaping and building fabric maintenance, event management and catering through its sub contractor, Aramark.

Constable’s ambition to become “the UK’s most operationally effective force by 2010” has at least in part been achieved with the new Constabulary HQ at Waterwells, and the close location and co-operation with ambulance and fire services. However, the future is not certain since under the current Home Office review of Police Authorities across the country, the Gloucestershire constabulary could be subsumed into a larger force covering several counties in south west England. Hodges hopes that the modern fit-for-purpose facility with lower than average running costs will ensure that the Gloucestershire force will retain a lead position in whatever organization emerges in the future.

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