Manchester gets largest solar tower in Europe

A novel approach to urban regeneration is taking place in the centre of Manchester as one of its main landmark buildings, the CIS tower is being re-clad in solar panels.

The Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) service tower, a Grade II listed building, already dominates the city skyline and is the tallest office building in the UK outside London. The new cladding will now make it the largest vertical solar cladding project in Europe and something of a tourist attraction.

Gary Thomas, Head of Property and Facilities at CIS said: “The Grade II listed building is already a landmark, but it is now more than 40years old and the small mosaic tiles that clad the service tower need replacing. These solar panels are the ideal solution. They will protect the tower from the elements, enhance its appearance and generate significant amounts of renewable energy.”

Three sides of the 400ft tower will be clad in the dark-blue panels creating 180,000 units of renewable electricity each year – enough for nine million cups of tea. Although this won’t be enough to run the entire building – with over 4,000 employees inside – it will significantly reduce the amount of power it needs to pull from the national grid.

Work on the tower is due for completion by December 2005 and is being managed by ISG Interior-Exterior. Project manager Philip Chadwick said the project brought some particular challenges:

“As with any tall building, there are additional health and safety considerations that need to be strictly adhered to and we have the advantage of bringing best practice processes onsite from our experience of working on the BT Tower and similar projects.”

The total contract is worth over £5.5 million and is being supported by a grant of £885,000 from the Northwest Regional Development Agency and £175,000 from the DTI.

Bryan Gray, Chair of the NWDA said he was delighted to be supporting the project:

“Forty per cent of Europe’s energy use is associated with buildings, but old building stock is renewed at only two per cent per annum. Therefore, renewable energy and energy efficient solutions for existing buildings will be key to delivering national and regional targets in this area.”

“As climate change moves up the political agenda, the North West is yet again shining a beacon and leading the way for the rest of the UK.”

By David Hopkins

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