A colourful ‘wrap’ around the sustainable energy substation at Brent Cross Town has created the largest permanent public artwork in the UK. The new substation will be critical to realising the town’s ambition to be net zero carbon by 2030, providing clean power for homes, offices, retail and leisure spaces. This reflects how Brent Cross Town, one of the largest urban regeneration projects in Europe, equally prioritises environmental, social and economic outcomes – driving sustainable development. It is the first of many projects that Arup is supporting across Brent Cross Town, as a long-term partner to Related Argent.

Arup led the design team for the substation, which is wrapped in a 52-metre-long, 21-metre-high artwork created by London-based artist Lakwena and architects IF_DO. Taller than the Angel of the North, it sits in a prominent location, next to the busy junction between London’s North Circular Road and the M1 motorway, adjacent to Thameslink railway lines and the new Brent Cross West station. As many as six million people will see the work every year from road and rail alone. Titled ‘Here we come, Here we rise and shine’, the artwork reflects the ambition to inspire and bring people together in the local community.

Powering Brent Cross Town’s net zero carbon future

The sustainable energy substation is critical to Brent Cross Town achieving net zero carbon by 2030. It will supply electricity to the whole town, including 6,700 new homes, 3 million square ft of offices, and new retail and leisure spaces. It will also power the town’s district heating and cooling centre, created with Swedish energy company Vattenfall. 

The substation will be low carbon from the outset and net zero by 2030, and will feature the largest air source heat pump in Europe. Brent Cross Town will source all electricity within its control from 100% renewable sources. Being situated in the open air, the substation benefits from natural ventilation, reducing operational emissions.

Not only will this iconic large-scale artwork put Brent Cross Town on the map, but it also showcases a talented London artist, and wraps an important piece of sustainable infrastructure that is key to meeting Brent Cross Town’s aspirations to achieve net zero carbon by 2030 – this really is green innovation and creativity at its best.

Councillor Barry Rawlings

Leader of Barnet Council

It would have been easy to take the more traditional route of enclosing the substation in a nondescript box and to miss the opportunity that is now so evident. Instead, we have demonstrated that even the most functional pieces of infrastructure can play an important role in defining place and lifting the spirits.

Nick Searl

Partner at Related Argent

How do you design and procure for steel reuse? 

Working with a forward-thinking client, Related Argent, we used circular economy principles to deliver a net zero substation. 42.5% of structural steel was salvaged from unused oil pipelines, cutting embodied carbon of the steel frame by over 40% and saving 99.2 tonnes of CO2e. Bringing together experts from across Arup in structural engineering, procurement, research and technology, we engaged early with Cleveland Steel to identify suitable steel available for reuse. Arup and Bourne Group then incorporated these into the design and specification, IF_DO and the client encouraged the specification of reused steel, and contractor Galldis procured them for a whole team, collaborative success! The concrete used is a combination of low-cement concrete and new Earth Friendly Concrete, a cement-free alternative. This saved up to 33% and 70% of embodied carbon respectively compared with mixes that do not use any cement replacement. Using digital tools, we designed lean, minimising materials use right from the start.

Greening urban infrastructure projects to rewild our cities

The project has also brought back to life a piece of brownfield, ex-industrial land, adding a biodiverse embankment designed by landscape architects Gillespies, with Arup advising on ecology and sustainability. Newly planted trees and a wildflower meadow provide a natural setting for the artwork, as well as increasing site biodiversity, enhancing local wildlife corridors and tying in with the wider network of green infrastructure within the masterplan and surrounding area.