A landmark geothermal solution for OCSC

10 Aug , 2016  

O’Connor Sutton Cronin (OCSC) claimed top prize in the ‘Sustainability Achievement’ category at the 2015 Fit Out Awards. We caught up with mechanical director Richard Brennan to discuss the innovative geothermal system delivered at Athlone Town Centre & Sheraton Hotel.

Two O’Connor Sutton Cronin M&E projects struck gold at the 2015 Annual Fit Out Awards in November. While the Embassy Gardens, Phase 01, London triumphed in the ‘International Project of the Year’ section Athlone Town Centre & Sheraton Hotel was recognised in the “Sustainability Achievement” category.

The latter project comprised the design and installation of an innovative geothermal solution to heat and cool the Athlone Town Centre shopping centre and adjoining Sheraton Hotel, utilising the River Shannon to provide a 50% energy cost savings.

OCSC were commissioned in 2014 to design and install the eco-friendly heating and cooling system. The use of river water from the Shannon to heat and cool the Athlone Town Centre and Sheraton Hotel is an innovative and sustainable design concept and OCSC were able to deliver this with great success on a 2,000,000 sq ft live and fully operational site, with the use of geothermal heating and cooling in this large scale development providing 50% cost savings for the landlord and tenants.

This was the first large scale development of its kind in Ireland to utilise geothermal in this way. The Athlone Town centre shopping and commercial centre comprises over 60 retail units over a three-storey below-ground car park with parking for 1,300 cars while The Sheraton Athlone Hotel, is a four-storey main building with twelve-storey tower over double basement, comprising 167 bedrooms, eleven conference/meeting rooms; leisure facilities; and 18-metre swimming pool and spa facilities.

OCSC’s brief was to design an energy-efficient ground water geothermal system to provide heating and cooling to all retail units and The Sheraton Hotel. Work began in January, 2014 with completion in May, 2015.

As the site is located in the heart of Athlone, close to the River Shannon, groundwater was causing issues for the construction team during construction. Thus, a number of groundwater pumps were installed around the perimeter of the site as a temporary measure to remove the water from the site during construction. The client recognised this as an energy-saving opportunity rather than a construction headache and decided to try to take advantage of this free low grade thermal energy source.

The water coming out of the ground was a constant 10deg C and there was plenty of it! The idea in principle was to re-route this constant stream of free water to the various buildings on the site, to be utilised as a geothermal heating/cooling source for the retail units and the main cooling source for the Sheraton Hotel.

The groundwater heating/cooling systems to serve the retail units and hotel did not get incorporated into the original design and were not installed under the original construction. As a result, a large water cooled chiller unit had to be installed for the hotel and the majority of the retail units experienced ongoing issues with their heating/cooling systems.

O’Connor Sutton Cronin (M&E) completed the designs for the geothermal system in ‘14 and turned this energy-efficient idea into an innovative, award-winning reality.

O’Connor Sutton Cronin is traditionally renowned for civil and structural work but since OCSC M&E was founded in 2008 – at the beginning of the recession – it has consistently grown to be become one of the leading M&E consultancies in Ireland.  In addition to their head office in Dublin, they have offices in London and are currently undertaking numerous international projects in places as far afield as Haiti and Nigeria.

They were selected as the M&E Engineers for the Central Bank of Ireland new Headquarters project along with many other substantial projects, having consistently delivered successful projects for the HSE, ESB and AIB.

In-house Sustainability and Environmental assessment professionals have instilled a strong emphasis on sustainability and OCSC pride themselves on their ‘can do’ attitude, which has helped maintain existing clients and win new ones on an ongoing basis.

As a practice, quality, excellence in design and cost efficiency are at the forefront of OCSC’s objectives. The prime focus is to produce fully-engineered quality designs that will bring cost security to projects, achieved through an enthusiastic, dynamic team.

OCSC’s M&E team comprises over 60 engineers who work on a complete range of projects including healthcare, education, retail, hotels, residential care, public entertainment, utility projects, civil projects and many more.

Integrated into the M&E team is a pioneering Sustainability section, which provides continuous support to the firm’s engineers, assisting in developing their expertise in this field of engineering. With these skilled engineers, OCSC (M&E) Ltd. can assist in developing the most economical designs that comply with the reduced energy, sustainable and renewable requirements of current day projects.

The team that worked on the Athlone Town Centre & Sheraton Hotel project was led by M&E director Francis McNulty and mechanical director Richard Brennan. Patrick Field, who leads the Sustainability section and is also a company director, contributed to the innovative design solutions and building regulation compliance.

Reflecting on the company’s success at the Fit Out awards late last year, Richard notes: “It’s a great award to win. To get this particular award was especially pleasing as we have a dedicated section that deals specifically with sustainability and energy-related projects. It’s an area we pride ourselves on, with a number of engineers dedicated to that field of expertise.”

The solution is permanent, with water being pumped around the site constantly to provide heating and cooling. Regarding any additional running or maintenance costs, Richard told us: “The plate heat exchangers need to be maintained, which will involve taking them apart and cleaning them once a year. We still conduct ongoing checks of the control system and it has to be adjusted seasonally but otherwise it is self-sustaining.

“It’s rare that a client is prepared to invest this kind of money in a sustainability project, even if it will save money in the long term, so we are very grateful to John O’Sullivan for putting his faith in us.”

9 Prussia Street,
Dublin 7.
Tel: 01 8682000
Fax: 01 8682100
Email: [email protected]

Taken from Building Ireland magazine, Spring 2016, Vol 2, No 1