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HydroNess, Inverness

Words:
RIAS Jury

Leslie Hutt Architect with artist Claire MacLean conceals renewable hydroelectric infrastructure in a striking salmon-like sculptural facility that wins 2024 RIAS Award

HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter

2024 RIAS Award

HydroNess, Inverness 
Leslie Hutt Architect for Highland Council
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 220 m2 

HydroNess is a striking sculptural facility that houses renewable energy turbines on the edge of the River Ness. Designed by architect Leslie Hutt in conjunction with artist Claire MacLean, the building reflects the shape and colours of a salmon and neatly conceals from view the hydroelectric infrastructure which generates over 500,000 kWh of renewable electricity each year for the Inverness Leisure Centre.

The project demonstrates an innovative example of successful, joined-up thinking, and by harnessing the power of the river it is able to provide a sustainable energy supply to the neighbouring leisure centre.

  • HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
    HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
  • HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
    HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
  • HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
    HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
  • HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
    HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
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The client initially sought to provide a technical solution for the need to increase renewable energy provision, but ingeniously coupled this with some eye-catching messaging through the inclusion of the distinctive housing. Programmatically, a simple shed would have sufficed. But Highland Council’s determination to promote and celebrate hydroelectric power has encouraged the architect to be more daring, and the outcome has placed this scheme very much at the forefront of the net-zero challenge.

The project is self-financing with the 92kW Archimedes screw hydroelectric turbine providing 50% of the electricity demand for the local leisure centre, and saving 142,000kg of C02e per annum.  Continually generating electricity, the facility protects the leisure centre from future energy price increases and provides long-term financial stability, forming part of the Highland Council’s target to reach net-zero by 2045.

The architect rose to the challenge to deliver an engaging enclosure on the riverbank that raises the profile of renewable energy provision. As well as providing shelter for the equipment, the playful skin of the turbine’s housing catches the attention of passers-by, who are intrigued by the form and detail. In doing so, HydroNess becomes a new city landmark and a billboard for our need to embrace renewable energy.

  • HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
    HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
  • HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
    HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
  • HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
    HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
  • HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
    HydroNess. Credit: Keith Hunter
  • HydroNess. Credit: Leslie Hutt
    HydroNess. Credit: Leslie Hutt
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In sunshine, the skin comes alive with each of the faceted scales reflecting light in a different direction. At night, the clever introduction of variable lighting gives the form colourful animation, making it a glowing landmark on the new north circular.

HydroNess has also provided a unique opportunity to link with the local STEM curriculum, providing education opportunities to all students young and old. The jury was impressed by the project’s forward thinking and the importance of using a creative vision to help tackle the climate emergency, alongside The Highland Council’s bold and creative approach to achieving NetZero.

See the rest of the RIAS winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

Credits

Contractor P Bradley & Co
Structural engineer Hasson Engineering Solutions 
QS/cost consultant/project management Highland Council
Concept artist Claire MacLean
Hydro engineer HydroNI
Steelwork fabricator M.Hasson and Sons 
Lighting The Tech Guys
Precast concrete Moore Concrete
Signage and information Mather and Co

 

Credit: Leslie Hutt Architect
Credit: Clare MacLean
Credit: Leslie Hutt Architect
Credit: Leslie Hutt Architect
Credit: Leslie Hutt Architect
Credit: Leslie Hutt Architect

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