Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre (CERC)

Implementation of an Energy from Waste generating station providing electrical power to the grid at St Dennis in Cornwall.

The facility has the capacity to treat 240,000 tonnes per year of municipal solid waste left over after recycling, generating  electricity sufficient to power the equivalent of 21,000 homes.

There is an adjacent bottom ash recycling facility with a capacity for the treatment, storage and onward transfer of approximately 65,000 tonnes per year (of which approximately 10% is recovered as ferrous & non-ferrous metals) - this finds its way into secondary aggregate products for road-building and construction.

The main energy from waste plant building has a curved roof rising to a maximum height of 45m with a separate bottom ash treatment building about 20m high along with a purpose-built visitor centre with interactive displays and activities that explain the importance of reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering value from waste.

Key details

Project name
Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre (CERC)

Vinci Construction Ltd

St Dennis, Cornwall

Services provided

  • Lead designer
  • Architecture
  • Civil engineering
  • Structural engineering
  • Building services engineering
  • Fire engineering


The project involved the implementation and construction of a complex design for a very large industrial type building potentially visible from many viewpoints. This necessitated understanding and interpreting the approved design and discharging conditions prior to commencement. There was a considerable challenge involved in pursuing the design to a detailed level for construction purposes whilst retaining its integrity.

The design of the building was originally in part driven by the space required to accommodate the processes within it and this presented challenges in terms of landscape setting. The exposed site slopes to the north created issues with access / egress to elements of the facility, requiring significant earth retaining structures. It was further complicated by the location of an SSSI site adjacent to the northern boundary and a watercourse that takes drainage from the site and adjacent areas.

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RPS designed the buildings for Vinci Construction and services included lead designer, architecture, civil and structural engineering, building services design and fire engineering.

A series of curved roofs were incorporated into the scheme to reflect the rolling forms of the countryside around the site. Part of the challenge was understanding the limitations of the materials involved. A very close relationship was formed with the Local Authority to ensure that discharge of conditions including material choices proceeded smoothly.

The main process building was clad in a mixture of composite cladding, with the office element completed in extensive Brise-soleil and a sedum roof to minimise their appearance on the landscape from a distance.

A second building is a fully enclosed ash processing / storage facility incorporating a curved standing seam roof, mirroring that on the main process building.

Externally lower sections of the buildings are clad with rock gabions which are also used on retaining structures on other elements across the site. The rock is specified to tie the development in with the sense of “Cornishness”.

We worked closely with Vinci Environment process engineers from France who provided the operational plant.  This process was aided by regular federation of building and process plant design models to help successfully manage coordination of the two parts of the project, adopting many BIM principles in delivery of the project.

Project statistics

247,000 tonnes
per annum of refuse
16 MW
capacity to deliver 16 megawatts of electricity
enough to power up to 21,000 homes

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