Thursday, 03 March 2022

Hackathon: full steam ahead towards a net zero future

Skelly & Couch Associate Ben Hunt (second from left) leads the client’s prize-winning team for original design and out-of-the-box thinking.

Skelly & Couch and global engineering consultancy Worley recently held a hackathon at the London Museum of Water and Steam. The challenge: to explore strategies to decarbonise the museum and support its pathway to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The event took place on Friday 25th February 2022, both in person and online, and involved more than 30 students, academics and enthusiasts across the world, from Scotland, to the Netherlands and Azerbaijan.

The day began with a fact-finding tour of the historic museum for those present, followed by the hackathon at Worley’s London HQ on the Great West Road, Brentford.

Situated on the site of the old Kew Bridge Pumping Station in Brentford, near Kew Bridge on the River Thames, the museum centres on a collection of stationary water pumping steam engines dating from 1820 to 1910. It is the home of the world's largest collection of working Cornish engines, including the Grand Junction 90 inch, the largest such working engine in the world.

The museum has become a focal point of the local community and tells the fascinating story of London’s water supply and the amazing pumping engines that helped make London the great city it is today.

Beyond having the opportunity to work with subject matter experts (SMEs) from Worley and Skelly & Couch on developing low-carbon solutions for the museum, participating students were in with a chance to win internships within Worley, among other great prizes.

All the participants were divided into six teams which investigated different work streams, including alternative approaches to reducing the museum’s carbon footprint of steam generation and assessing the scope to use the Water Tower – a striking, Grade I-listed, 200 ft high Victorian standpipe tower of Italianate design - to store energy.

The assembled brilliant minds finally presented their ideas for group discussion and review and prizes were awarded to winning groups across a range of categories. Among the inventive solutions were suggestions to:

  • Pre-heat the supply of water to the steam boilers using solar thermal, and water source heat pumps from the existing Thames connection

  • Piezoelectric floor panels for electrical generation (kinetic floor tiles which capture energy when people walk on them)

  • Recycling bed duvets donated by the public to insulate existing plant.

If you would like to find out more about the museum, Worley or Skelly & Couch, please follow the links below:

Skelly & Couch – award-winning engineering consultancy providing sustainable building services design –

Worley - a global engineering consultancy delivering projects for the Energy, Chemicals and Resources sectors –

London Museum of Water and Steam – tells the story of London's water supply, the site, its people and its stunning pumping engines.