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Triangulum - Manchester moves towards smart zero carbon

The fifth challenge paper, smart cities, urbanisation and connectivity, from Projecting the Future explains, major changes will inevitably affect project management. This case study explores how Manchester is becoming smarter and cleaner.

As part of its drive to be one of the UK’s smartest, cleanest cities, Manchester has set itself the lofty target to become completely zero-carbon by 2038. It still has a long way to go, but Manchester City Council has thrown itself into several projects that aim to find solutions for various causes of inefficiency, waste and pollution.

Triangulum is one such project. It’s actually a much larger programme than Manchester; a European Union driven initiative to test new innovations and technologies across three ‘lighthouse’ cities: Manchester, Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Stavanger in Norway. Three ‘follower’ cities – Leipzig, Sabadell and Prague – will then adopt the technologies used in the initial cities, to see how easy it is to replicate the results. The ‘lighthouse’ phase is just coming to a close after five years.

“You've got a Manchester consortium which consisted of the technical partner, the universities, local SMEs and the city,” says Martine Tommis, programme manager for Manchester City Council. “But then what you've also got is an international context to that where you're working with other lighthouse cities within a consortium, to learn and share knowledge between us. So it works on two levels.”

Manchester Triangulum is best seen as one of several work packages within the European Triangulum programme, Tommis explains. “So work package three is the Manchester consortium work package. Four is Stavanger, work package five is Eindhoven, and then there are other work packages that then cut across all of the projects. For example, monitoring and data services were part of work package two and cut across all three cities.”

Manchester City Council selected Siemens as the technical partner for the project. They had worked with the electronics company on previous projects so they had an established relationship. Siemens had also worked on previous smart city projects, so had a wealth of data to draw on.

“What we learn from one project, we're able to take into to another,” says Ivan Hewlett, project manager for Siemens. “Hopefully, we learn from them and start to develop our products and services portfolio. We are at that project phase where we are, working with consortiums to deliver early learning projects. But we've now got a move to scaling them up.”

The consortium, which also included Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Manchester, selected the Oxford Road corridor as the area of the city to test the new technologies.

“Oxford road is a really key area for Manchester,” Tommis explains. “It's regarded as the innovation district and it's quite unique in that it has its own board. There is a kind of set up that is called Oxford road corridor and that consists of the two universities and number of large teaching hospitals and a number of bioscience industries, Manchester science parks.”

The project was split into three strands: energy, ICT and mobility. The ICT element was about connecting everything into a single system. The mobility element included the creation of more charging points for electric vehicles. The energy element involved the implementation of smart and renewable technologies.

The first stage involved research into energy use in the area to determine whether it was possible to take the area off the energy grid using renewable technologies. At best, they could generate 25 per cent of the energy needed. So instead, the team looked at options around energy storage and smart building controls, so that buildings could store energy and use it more efficiently.

The team upgraded the Building Energy Management System (BEMS) in Manchester Art Gallery. The replacement BEMS activated heating, cooling and humidity on a needs-basis while predictive analytics were used to return energy sources back onstream when required.

Siemens and Manchester Met University worked on a distributed energy system at the university’s Birley Campus. A 400kWh lithium-ion battery was installed at the campus, integrated with new solar panels installed on the roof. These technologies are controlled by a microgrid controller which chooses the best energy source to use and whether the battery should store or release energy.

A cloud-based energy management platform effectively functioned as a virtual power plant, managing renewables in tandem with the BMS at three sites around the city: the Central Library and Town Hall Extension for Manchester City Council; the Alan Turing, Alan Gilbert and Ellen Wilkinson buildings at The University of Manchester.  The controller switched non-critical assets like heating and cooling on and off in response to demands on the grid, to maximise energy efficiency. It can compensate for different weather conditions or changing populations in any of the buildings. 

It was a complicated project with several elements to it – like most smart city projects, it’s essentially a number of smaller projects, brought together with a single, connecting system. There are also a number of stakeholders involved in the project.

“The key thing is that old one of kind of communication and information; keeping people up-to-date and making sure that they know exactly what's going on, identifying the risks and, and dealing with the issues fairly early on,” says Tommis.

One of the biggest challenges for the project was the speed of technological advancement. Over the course of five-year project, it’s easy for technology to go out of date, rendering the findings useless.

“There were some technologies that were proposed in the bid that were not feasible when it came to delivering them on the ground,” Tommis explains. “So there was a big rethink about a lot of that and that's par for the course with these kind of projects. But also you kind of have to then just have the systems in place to kind of deal with that.”

The solution optimised energy consumption, reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) and lessened the area’s dependence on the grid. Scaled citywide, the central controller could potentially save Manchester approximately 57,000t CO2 emissions per annum –  the same as taking 12,000 cars off the road each year.

The solutions explored in Manchester are now being implemented elsewhere as part of the larger Triangulum project. Siemens is also looking at how it can scale the solutions across the city. For Manchester City Council, the next step is to continue finding solutions to reduce emissions, starting with its own estates.” Around 60 per cent of the City Council’s emissions come from our buildings. A lot of reduction has been achieved by reducing the size of our estate – the next phase will be to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings we have.”

Join and contribute to our ‘big conversation’ about how the project profession can best shape the future and how the future may affect the project profession. 

Brought to you by Project journal.