RAF Waddington

Boiler House 1 Replacement

Boiler House 1 Replacement

Client: Babcock Dyncorp
Location: RAF Waddington, Lincoln, LN5 9NB
Sector: Defence
Type: Design-and-Build
Services: M&E Building Installation
Value: £2m
Main Contractor: Babcock Dyncorp
Duration: 48 weeks

Project Details:

With six badged squadrons and a community of around 3000 people, RAF Waddington is one of the largest military bases in the UK. It is also one of the RAF’s most strategically important camps, acting as the central hub for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR). But while ongoing investment has turned Waddington into a world class military facility, the camp’s heating system was in need of a significant overhaul.

Key Facts:

  • Design and build of a new 4 x 1 megawatt boiler house and CHP plant room with 3 x 330kVA units.
  • 90 metres of deep trenching to connect new plant feeds with existing services.
  • Eco-efficient heating supply to around 80% of a 3000-strong military community.

The problem

The site’s existing heating supply was fed with LTHW from a central boiler house that dated from the early to mid 20th century, supplemented by a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant that had since become defunct. Together these units were designed to account for around 80% of the camp’s heating, but it was clear that the current system was no longer fit for purpose. Of its five existing boilers, only two were still in operation, representing around 45% of installed capacity. The other three boilers had failed, one of the heating pumps was leaking badly and our tests indicated that the flow temperature would be incapable of generating hot water above the pasteurisation threshold. The age of the mains pipework, estimated to be perhaps 60 to 70 years old, also meant that corrosion and significant future breakdowns were all but inevitable.

The solution

Given the decline of the system, continued maintenance and repair were no longer considered viable for its future operation. Our solution was to provide the base with a new, state-of-the-art package plant room and CHP house.

This had several advantages for the client, not least a substantial financial saving over the alternatives. Building a new boiler house in situ would have greatly extended the construction phase (not to mention disruption to the base), while a refit of the existing boiler house was fraught with potentially prohibitive engineering issues. Designed offsite and built in a controlled factory environment, our packaged solution offered the highest quality construction process and a relatively quick site installation.

The challenges

Preparing the ground for the plant rooms was far from straightforward. Our engineers had to trench around 90 metres to connect the new feeds into the existing services, and the required depth to reach those services was considerable. To complicate matters, a large amount of asbestos was discovered in the ground as we dug down for drainage and cabling; construction halted for several weeks while the site was tested and securely cleared of spoil.

Another key challenge of the project was to minimise disturbance to the base during our works. As a sensitive military site, very careful provision had to be made for the necessary shutdowns as we installed the new system and brought it online. To tackle this, two of our managers worked round-the-clock with the base’s Appointed Persons to programme the closures, and with foresight, 40-day notice periods and weekend overtime we were able to keep disruption to a minimum. This was particularly crucial during the main package installation, when a large crane had to be deployed in the vicinity of the airstrip. Thanks to the offsite construction solution, however, heating outages were also minimised; the old plant room served the needs of the base for the majority of the works, until the main switchover took place.

The future

RAF Waddington’s new boiler house and CHP room is a huge improvement on its outdated and problematic forerunners. We installed four new, one megawatt boilers as part of the works, each with improved modular control and much greater heating efficiency. The old transformers were also upgraded to fit with the new system, with modern cabling to the feeder pillar and plant room. Overall the system is now much more environmentally friendly, too. Gas-fired CHPs, being low carbon emitters, are considered to be a renewable energy technology. The waste heat from the combustion process will enable the base to return a megawatt of power to the main ring.

Ultimately Waddington’s investment in the project will reap many dividends, with an up-to-date, cost-efficient system that comfortably meets the camp’s present and future needs.

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