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25th January 2016

Suffolk energy-from-waste facility is ‘outstanding’

Suffolk’s energy-from-waste facility (EfW) at Great Blakenham is one of the greenest buildings in the country after achieving an ‘outstanding’ rating from leading international assessors.

It is one of just four buildings, and the first industrial building, in East Anglia to be awarded the top grade from BREEAM, which aims to encourage low-carbon, low-impact design.

The BREEAM scheme offers one of the most comprehensive and widely recognised measures of a building’s environmental performance. Over two million buildings, in over 70 countries, have been assessed with less than 2% achieving the outstanding rating.

The energy-from-waste facility is a joint initiative between Suffolk County Council and SUEZ and uses household and business waste, which would otherwise go to landfill, as a fuel to generate enough electricity for 30,000 homes. Metals are recycled and ash, left after the incineration process, is used as an aggregate for local building projects, so virtually nothing goes to waste.

Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection, Cllr Matthew Hicks, said: “Energy-from-waste provides a cheaper, greener alternative to landfill. Over the 25 year life of the contract it will be at least £350 million cheaper and greenhouse gases are being reduced by 75,000 tonnes a year, compared to landfill.

“But it is not just the process which has environmental benefits – the building itself has now proved to be among the best designs under a scheme which measures the social, environmental and economic sustainability of buildings.”

The facility began operating in December 2014, following three years of construction and commissioning. It was designed by world-renowned architects, Grimshaw, and the main contractors were CNIM/Lagan.

Paul Leighton, plant manager for SUEZ, who built and now run the site, said: “To achieve ‘outstanding’ is an exceptional achievement and it is testament to the determination and hard work of all those involved to make this facility the best.”

Under the BREEAM scheme, points are awarded for every environmental feature incorporated into the design, construction and operation of a building. Features at the Suffolk site include:

Design – the building features the same giant ‘plastic pillow’ roof used in the Eden Project in Cornwall. This allows in lots of natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting.

Construction – the old highways building, which once stood on the site, was used in the foundations for the new building and all of the materials used in construction came from sustainable sources.

Use – rainwater is collected on site and is then used in the energy-from-waste process; the site powers itself and exports excess electricity to the National Grid.

Clive Arthey, Chairman of the Suffolk Waste Partnership, which includes the county, district and borough councils, which send waste to the facility, said: “In Suffolk we remain committed to increasing recycling, but this facility provides us with a great solution for the waste that can’t be recycled.”

The architectural watchdog, CABE, has previously praised the building – describing it as an ‘exemplar’ in setting the standard for future industrial design.

This is the first Grimshaw building in the practice’s history to be awarded a BREEAM Outstanding rating. It is also a first for the Lagan Construction Group.

SUEZ has paid for the £180 million building, and a government grant from Defra, worth nearly £200 million over the 25-year life of the contract, will help to cover the running costs.

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