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BDP completes Sheffield biomass plant

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BDP has unveiled this biomass power plant which stands on the site of the iconic Tinsley cooling towers near the M1 in Sheffield 

ARCHITECT’S VIEW • PROJECT DATA

The Blackburn Meadows biomass plant has been designed to provide a ‘striking landmark’ for the city, signifying the gateway out of Sheffield.

The site at the side of the M1 had been the home to Sheffield’s famous Tinsley cooling towers for 70 years before they were demolished in 2008.

Clad in black profiled steel and dark brick, the plant’s exterior reflects the industrial heritage of the local area, while the site’s boiler house is enclosed in orange polycarbonate which glows at night to provide a beacon across the landscape.

Mike Wake, head of business heat and power solutions at E.ON, said: ‘The site has for many years been associated with the energy industry and the iconic Tinsley Towers. From an architectural perspective, therefore, our goal for Blackburn Meadows was to design a plant that would reflect the history of the site and which would also provide a visually striking landmark.’

Blackburn Meadows by BDP

Blackburn Meadows by BDP

Source: Paul Karalius

Architect’s view

Due to the size of the structures, it was felt that the approach providing best value for money would be to treat the majority of them in a manner typical of industrial architecture, with the building forms determined by their function and reflecting their operation. In reference to the local industrial vernacular of the Lower Don Valley, these volumes are clad in black profiled steel as seen in buildings such as Forgemasters Steel Works and Magna Science Adventure Centre. 

The boiler house is highlighted as a landmark feature, expressing the fact that it lies at the very heart of the energy-making process. This is achieved through the addition of a simple orthogonal volume of orange polycarbonate which conceals the terminus of the fuel conveyors and extends up and over the building, raising its visual prominence. At night this volume is illuminated internally, further emphasising its landmark status. 

By concentrating the “feature” landmark elements into a particular zone of the plant, utilising a material that is relatively inexpensive and highly contrasting with the rest of the scheme and employing light to further highlight this contrast, it was possible to satisfy the client’s budgetary constraints whilst creating the character of architecture which was sought by the planning authority. 

The entrance lobby and stair enclosure of the visitor centre mirrors at a smaller scale the form and materiality of the boiler house. The two volumes frame one’s field of vision on entering the site and form a striking composition when viewed from the surrounding area. 

Blackburn Meadows by BDP

Blackburn Meadows by BDP

Source: Paul Karalius

Project data

Location Sheffield
Type of project biomass power plant
Architect BDP
Client E.ON
Lighting consultant BDP
Landscape architect BDP
Planning consultant Nexus Planning
Fuel delivery works contractor George Robson & Co Conveyors
Boiler house and ancillary works contractor Andritz Energy & Environment
Turbine and generator works contractor TGM Kanis Turbinen
High voltage electrical systems works contractor ABB
Civil and building works contractor Bam Nuttall
Civil and building works contractor’s delivery architect Race Cottam Associates
Landscaping contractor Grace Landscapes

Blackburn Meadows by BDP

Blackburn Meadows by BDP

Source: Paul Karalius

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