• Architecture
  • Education

Liverpool HIP,



Project Details:

A state of the art new energy centre for the University of Liverpool, right in the heart of the city.

Client: University of Liverpool Energy Company

Construction Value: £15.5m

Completion: 2010

Location: Liverpool


  • Civic Trust Awards 2011: Winner
  • RIBA Awards 2011: Winner
  • BCI Awards 2010, Best Practice: Shortlisted
  • Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award 2010: Shortlisted

Images: Eddie Jacobs

Low energy use
Renewables on site
Heritage context
Infill development
Enhanced public realm

Where we started

The energy centre has an innovative cladding system of specially formed trapezoidal aluminium ‘scales’

Having grown slowly and steadily over the years, the University of Liverpool was struggling with an inefficient energy system when they asked us to house their new facilities in a state-of-the art building.

An existing university car park was chosen as the site for the new energy centre, primarily due to its proximity to the existing power system. However, it was on a busy pedestrian route and surrounded by listed buildings. The idea of what is essentially a plant building in this historic part of Liverpool was somewhat controversial, so we needed to tread carefully and change the perception of what an energy centre could look like.

The previous site was a parking lot located in the historic core of the campus

Site plan

Our client group was made up of students and a broad range of staff, who together ensured that all sides of the university were represented. Of course, the university needed to remain open and functional throughout too.


Owing to its prominent location and importance to the university’s profile, we were keen to develop a high quality building, which we termed HIP (Heating Infrastructure Project). Although we were acutely aware of needing to respond sensitively to the Conservation Area context, we wanted to reflect the building’s use through its appearance.

We devised a visually striking, but technically quite complex, cladding system, which became the pivotal element of the whole project. The whole façade is ventilated – a base of patterned durbar plate, glass and steel grating is overlaid by repeating anodised aluminium panels, organised to allow air to move in and out of the building. Diamond shaped panels higher up accommodate the flue extracts, all the while creating an eye-catching finish.

The façade is carefully designed to allow air to circulate in and out of the building

Importantly this project is more than a clever architectural enclosure. The energy generated within provides much of the needs of Liverpool University’s Estate. This project is a very complete tale of making new, repairing old and conserving resources.

RIBA Awards judge

The shape of the roof is designed for the retrofitting of photovoltaic panels

The glass and steel grating is installed as a base

Durbar plate panels are inserted into the frame

Repeating anodised aluminium panels complete the envelope while allowing the facade to 'breathe'

The scale and proportions of the new energy centre were influenced by the heritage context. Despite the chimney being 46m high to meet regulations, it is constructed in stainless steel and kept as sleek as possible to reduce its impact on the skyline. Pitched roofs also mimic the gables of Waterhouse’s neighbouring boiler house.

Reducing energy consumption was obviously a key driver, and we embraced this in the building fabric as well as with improvements to the plant itself – glazed areas expose the inner workings of the building whilst minimising the need for artificial lighting, and aluminium sheets on the roof prevent thermal overheating. Altogether, the energy centre is saving 6,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year, equivalent to taking 3,000 cars off the road.

A novel response to building a boiler house in a prominent location.

Nico Saieh, ArchDaily

The highly efficient main generator further reduced energy consumption

Glazing reveals inner workings of the centre while reducing the need for energy-consuming interior lighting

The new series of pitched roofs also reflect the gables on the surrounding heritage buildings