Hydroelectric ‘powerhouse’ completed on River Wear

Work is ongoing on the phase two of Freeman's Reach in Durham.

Work is ongoing on the phase two of Freeman's Reach in Durham.

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A major milestone has been reached in a development on the banks of the River Wear with the completion of a building’s “powerhouse”.

The phase two section of Freeman’s Reach in Durham City will become the new offices for Her Majesty’s Passport Office.

The latest efforts have seen a 14-tonne prefabricated plant room, built off-site, lifted into place by a crane.

Once up and running, it will deliver heating, power and hot water.

Bosses of the project say the process dramatically enhanced the efficiency of the building work, cutting it down from 20 to eight weeks, and enabled a single installation rather than fitting individual components at the top of the structure.

During the operation, contractors used the crane to install an air handling unit, which will provide tempered fresh air and cooling units for computer suites.

Phase two of Freeman’s Reach, which stands on the site of a former ice rink, is set for completion next year.

HM Passport Office’s workforce, based on the opposite side of the River Wear in Milburngate House, will transfer across to the new complex.

The new office will share the top environmental credentials of the new National Savings and Investments office at Wearside House, and the rest of the development.

It has also become the first UK city centre development to incorporate a fully-operational hydro-power generator, after installing an Archimedean screw.

It uses water from the River Wear and drives a generator which creates the equivalent of 75% of the energy needed for Freeman’s Reach.

Project director Ian Beaumont said: “The installation of the plant room is a key milestone in the construction of phase two of Freeman’s Reach.

“The collaboration between the developers, contractors and engineering specialists ensured this was a very efficient operation, and is a significant step towards making Freeman’s Reach an exceptionally high quality, efficiently-constructed building.”

Freeman’s Reach is being developed by a consortium led by Carillion, Arlington Real Estate and Richardsons Capital LLP.