Skip to content
Search

Tower of Light

Manchester, United Kingdom

Year

2022

Duration

5 years

Cost

Unknown

Location

United Kingdom
Project achievements

Environment benefitted

Saving tonnes of carbon emissions

Used engineering skill

Uses as little material as possible without compromising on design

Area improved

Provides energy to a 2km district heating network

Energy efficient engineering for today and tomorrow

Tower of Light is a combined heat and power plant (CHP) in Manchester city centre.

It was unveiled by structural engineers Arup and architects Tonkin Liu in February 2022, after winning the project in autumn 2017.

The extraordinary nine-storey, 40-metre-tall tower structure is inspired by the natural world and geometric shapes.

It prioritises design and architecture excellence while integrating energy efficient engineering – ensuring it's suitable for today and tomorrow.

The design focuses on a tower supporting and enclosing chimneys for the city’s low carbon energy centre.

This CHP heats a district spanning two kilometres, providing energy to several iconic buildings such as Manchester Town Hall and the Bridgewater Hall.

The building’s unique structural design is exemplified by its intricate façade, with the structure grounded in the latest advanced digital modelling, analysis and fabrication techniques.

This method, known as a Shell Lace Structure, has been pioneered by Arup and Tonkin Liu for over a decade. It’s inspired by geometry in the natural world.

The Tower of Light is the largest built structure using this method to date.

Tower of Light - MCQ Cooling Towers © David Valinksky

Tower of Light

The Tower of Light is a 37m tall sculptural chimney, built as part of the new combined heat and power (CHP) plant commissioned for Manchester City Centre.

Tower of Light - MCQ Cooling Towers © David Valinksky

Tower of Light

The CHP serves a 2km district heating network, and connects several iconic buildings, including Manchester Town Hall and the Bridgewater Hall.

Did you know …

  1. The Tower of Light is the largest built structure using the Shell Lace Structure method – pioneered by Arup and Tonkin Liu – to date.

  2. Technology in the structure improves the building’s efficiency by as much as 45%, saving Manchester 1,600 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

  3. The Energy Centre currently contains a 3.3MWe combined heat & power engine and two 12MW gas boilers, with the capability to add future energy technologies without disruption to the supply.

How was the Tower of Light built?

The aim of the light and thin single surface structure is to use as little material as possible without compromising on design and improving the building’s sustainability credentials.

The flat steel sheets at the bottom of the tower are between just six and eight millimetres thick, and at the top of the tower, they slim down to just four millimetres.

No additional structural support is needed as strength is provided by cut plates which are bent and welded together at the seams.

A 63-metre long and 4 to 6-metre-high street façade structure named the Wall of Energy also stands alongside the tower, making up the new energy centre.

It consists of a tessellated interlocking lozenge tile pattern, meaning the shapes fit together without any gaps or overlaps. It’s composed of 1,373 tiles using 31 different tile types that are influenced by the natural world, such as sea waves.

Energy efficiency at the core of its design

It was essential that the building be energy efficient in itself while providing low-carbon energy to the urban radius it covers. It’s contributing to the city’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2038.

This energy efficiency is core to its design.

For example, it incorporates technology that allows heat from the power-generating engine to heat water. This hot water is then distributed through districted heating, meaning the water travels through insulated pipework across the city network.

This technology improves the building’s efficiency by as much as 45%, saving Manchester 1,600 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

The energy centre was also built with the ability to adapt to future changes in demand.

It currently contains a 3.3MWe combined heat & power engine and two 12MW gas boilers. It also has the capability to add future energy technologies without disruption to the supply.

And while the building must be lit at all times, due to its additional function as a source of entertainment for passers-by, providing a backdrop of light sequences and animations, this doesn’t impact its energy efficiency.

The lights are powered by the wind which causes reflectors in the tower to move and reflect sunlight into the tower’s chambers during the day. In the evening, LED lights are directed at the reflectors to have the same effect.

By harnessing the combined power of state-of-the-art architectural design and innovative structural processes, the Tower of Light serves multiple functions, all to the highest standards.

It serves as an example of a true urban, modern building.

People who made it happen

Structural engineers at Arup, in close collaboration with Tonkin Liu Architects.

Engineers involved:

  • Christian Dercks 
  • Ed Clark 
  • Chris Clarke (bio: Chris Clarke is a structural engineer working for Arup. He's designed a wide range of projects from stadia to sculptures, often involving complex geometry)
;