Cathedral chooses Remeha reliability as part of major restoration project

Durham Cathedral, one of Europe’s greatest medieval buildings, has chosen Remeha boilers to provide reliable, high performance, energy-efficient space heating throughout its newly refurbished monastic rooms as part of its ambitious £10 million development programme, Open Treasure.

Perched high on a rocky promontory overlooking the huddled medieval city and the swirling river below, Durham Cathedral dates back to 1093 when it was originally built as a monastic cathedral to house the shrine of the revered Anglo Saxon St Cuthbert, one of the founders of Christianity in England.  Described by the art historian Nikolaus Pevsner as “one of the great architectural experiences of Europe”, the Cathedral is renowned as a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture and is part of the UNESCO recognised Durham World Heritage Site.

Fast forward to today, and three Remeha Gas 310 Eco Pro boilers have recently been installed to provide reliable 21st century heating throughout three of the most spectacular areas of the Cathedral: the Monks’ Dormitory, the Great Kitchen and the Cloister. The heating refurbishment forms part of the latest phase of Open Treasure, a project designed to transform the experience of visitors to the Cathedral, opening up buildings and collections to visitors and providing access to previously hidden spaces within the Cathedral’s magnificent Claustral buildings to showcase the Cathedral’s history and heritage.

Heritage challenges

Refurbishing the medieval building presented a number of complex heritage challenges for the Cathedral. Providing consistent-temperature heating throughout the three rooms was a key part of the renovation, with careful consideration required in order to achieve the highest environmental and conservation standards to protect the listed medieval building and the rare cultural artefacts on display. For this reason, high performance heating was not just a desirable but an essential requirement of the project.

“When it came to specification, reliability was an important consideration due to the need to maintain continuous central heating services in these very important spaces,” said Stewart Park, Technical Director at TGA Consulting Engineers. “Ease of installation was an additional factor due to the nature of the monastic complex with its listed status and medieval fabric. We specified three Remeha Gas 310 Eco Pro boilers to meet these needs.”

Reliability

Durham Cathedral’s new exhibition route will begin at the famous Monks’ Dormitory that dates back to the late 14th century. With its spectacular, rough-hewn oak-beamed ceiling, the Monks’ Dormitory is one of the most impressive of all English medieval halls. Since 1856, it has served as a library and an exhibition space for the Cathedral’s collection of Anglo-Saxon stones and crosses. Open Treasure has transformed the badly lit, poorly heated space into an accessible exhibition space whilst maintaining and enhancing its key function as a library and study area. The transformation extends to the heating with two Remeha Gas 310 Eco Pro boilers, installed by contractors Vaughan Engineering Limited (VEL), maintaining a pleasant, closely-controlled temperature throughout. The reliable, high-efficiency boilers feed cast iron radiators that were chosen both for their aesthetic qualities and their robustness. The heating system also includes locally sited convector heaters which help regulate and circulate the air to achieve comfortable conditions in the study areas.

The same two Remeha boilers also provide space heating for a new Collections Gallery, accessed through a previously hidden door from the Monks’ Dormitory. Formerly the Library Search Room, this space will hold themed and touring exhibitions, allowing the Cathedral to display more of its own prestigious collections as well as internationally-renowned artefacts on loan.

High environmental standards

Providing reliable, consistent temperature space heating is critical to the preservation of these treasures and also the medieval buildings in which they are contained. This is particularly true in the Great Kitchen, with its high rib-vaulted ceiling and distinctive octagonal shape, which marks the end of the Open Treasure exhibition. The 14th century priory kitchen has been transformed with minimal disturbance to the original stonework to hold, along with many other artefacts, the Cathedral’s most precious treasure, the Anglo Saxon relics of St Cuthbert. Here, a third Remeha Gas 310 Eco Pro boiler ensures that the heating is maintained at the appropriate temperature, enabling it to achieve the highest environmental and conservation standards required to protect and conserve the valuable collections.

Small dimensions

The medieval structure of the Cathedral and its irregular features presented interesting challenges along the way, particularly when it came to positioning the boilers in the first floor plant room. This issue was overcome largely due to the small footprint of the Gas 310 Eco Pro boiler.

“As the plant room is on the first floor of one of our oldest Cathedral buildings, logistics was of prime importance,” explained Dave Rodley, Project Engineer at Vaughan Engineering. “The boilers were hoisted to the first floor and then manoeuvred through a removed window, with the boilers only just fitting through the space. The compact size of the boilers enabled this to be carried out safely and efficiently.”

With the boilers commissioned by GFA Gastech and running smoothly and efficiently, the heating refurbishment has been successfully completed ahead of the opening of Open Treasure later this year.

Preserving priceless collections

The successful installation and high performance operation of the Remeha boilers has pleased the Cathedral.

“Open Treasure is one of the most complex projects ever undertaken in an English Cathedral and we have encountered numerous challenges along the way,” said Tom Billington, Property and Facilities Manager at Durham Cathedral. “One of the most pressing challenges has been the need to provide suitable environmental conditions for the preservation and conservation of our internationally renowned collections, the earliest of which date back to the sixth century. It is a privilege to work with prestigious companies such as Remeha to ensure we meet these standards and maintain and preserve our priceless collections for generations to come.”

Open Treasure is due to open in 2016. The project received a £3.9m grant from Heritage Lottery Fund in 2013. The Consultant Architect was Purcell; the Exhibition Designer was Studio MB. The M&E Consultant was TGA Consulting Engineers, Durham; the M&E Contractor was Vaughan Engineering, led by Dave Rodley.

This article originally appeared in Tomorrow’s FM Magazine



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