Greater Manchester Green City Region. Creating a greener, greater city region differently

Collyhurst High Rise, Manchester

Restoring pride in social housing

Social housing tower blocks are easily one of the most controversial elements of post-war town planning. The buildings were originally envisioned as symbols “of the aspirations of the people of our age”*. However, as the focus quickly moved from quality to quantity, many of the blocks were completed to a poor standard and have rapidly decayed.

While the temptation to simply demolish and start afresh is strong, such an approach has serious implications in terms of cost, environmental impact and displacement of existing tenants. Large scale refurbishments offer an alternative way to breathe new life into estates and reshape the attitudes of residents and the public at large. 

Effective façade protection

Rainscreen systems are amongst the most popular options for multi-unit housing refurbishments. When specifying facade boards for these systems, it is crucial to not only careful consider the look, but also the overall performance of the products. Issues such as poor weather resistance or weak durability can badly undermine the long-term effectiveness of the facing, leaving a building that looks badly aged before its time. Fire is another major consideration for both specifiers and installers, particularly on high-rise projects. Facade boards made from basalt rock are available in a range of enhanced fire safe specification up to Euroclass A2-s1,d0, giving assurance that they will deliver excellent fire performance.

In addition to their overall performance, the board material can also be specified in designs and finishes to meet virtually any aesthetic requirements including subtle natural tones, modern metallics and striking solid colours. Wood style facade boards are another increasingly popular option. These products are virtually indistinguishable from real wood, but provide a lighter and more durable external surface to the building, together with the benefits of excellent fire performance.

Northwards Housing Case study

Lying to the north east of Manchester city centre, Collyhurst houses some of the most deprived communities in the country. As part of a 20-year regeneration plan for the area, four 1960’s council blocks – Humphries, Roach, Mossbrook and Vauxhall Court – were extensively refurbished by social landlords Northwards Housing in collaboration with Manchester Working.

The project team recognised at an early stage that the success of the scheme depended on resident buy-in. As a result, tenants were consulted on design choices throughout the project and were directly responsible in the choice of iridescent  Rockpanel Chameleon facade boards as the new cladding material.

Rockpanel Group spent three days with tenants going through the benefits of the thermal upgrade, as well as looking at the choices of the various finishes that were on offer for the boards.  CGIs (computer generated images) were created and printed onto mood boards with samples of the different products to help tenants to visualise how their building might look.  The choice of boards was put to a democratic vote by the tenants only, as was the decision as to whether to include solar panels.

The ‘Chameleon’ boards feature a unique crystal layer which makes them shimmer and seamlessly change colour depending on the angle of view or level of natural light. The lightweight boards were installed on two sides of the 13 storey blocks by Astley Facades UK. The graceful transition between shades of blue, green and purple form a beacon for regional regeneration which can be seen for miles around.

Robin Lawler, CEO, Northwards Housing said:

“The scheme to regenerate the tower blocks in Collyhurst, Manchester with attractive and high-tech facades demonstrates what can achieved with the use of high performance products (such as Rockpanal).  Refurbishment represents good value for money, improves the visual appearance of the tower blocks and surrounding communities whilst avoiding the destructive effects, both socially and environmentally of demolition.   The facades help to preserve the embedded energy in the fabric of the building and future-proofs against the effects of climate change, ensuring that residents live in a comfortable and attractive looking home for many years to come.”

Author: William McDowell – Business Director UK & Scandinavia at Rockpanel Group

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