Hulme’s high rises achieve their towering ambition
Published by Claire Tinston for IPB Communications in Communities and also in Housing
A £24 million project to improve eleven dilapidated 1960s concrete tower blocks in Hulme has been completed by City South Manchester Housing Trust, transforming the city’s skyline as well as the lives of the 660 residents who live in them.
The three and a half year project came to an end this month (March), with work concluding on the last block at Hulme Court on Chorlton Road.
The high rises were built in the early 1960s and had become expensive to heat for tenants and extremely costly to maintain for City South – threatening their future viability. Poor insulation had pushed up utility bills, while damp, condensation, mould and countless untraceable leaks had created poor living conditions.
The housing trust, in partnership with local residents, Manchester-based architects 2e (Edlemann and Ebling) and contractor Wates Living Space, embarked on an ambitious retrofit project to improve the blocks, both inside and out.
A watertight ‘second skin’ was added to the exterior of each tower. This comprised stylish aluminum-coated cladding and clay tiles to create a modern, appealing look and 125 mm insulation to boost heat retention. New argon-filled double glazed windows were installed, and photovoltaic panels added to each roof to power communal lighting, with excess power sold back to the National Grid.
Inside, properties benefited from new kitchens, bathrooms and high performance heating systems. Ground floor foyers and other communal areas were given a facelift and car parking and security improved.
Thanks to the investment, heating bills have been reduced by up to 25% per apartment, and the life expectancy of the blocks has been increased by 30-40 years. Carbon emissions have reduced from an average of 3.4 tonnes per property, per year, to 2.8 tonnes.
Tenants are thrilled with the improved comfort and style of their homes.
Doreen Neild, 69, has lived in the Westcott Court tower block since the early 1970s. She said: “I remember when the block used to be cold, and had graffiti on the stairwells. You felt unsafe. It’s completely different now. The flat is now much quieter and warmer thanks to the new heating and double glazing. The flats look amazing as well, much more in keeping with the modern buildings surrounding us. Security has been improved and there are no longer problems with anti-social behavior. Once again I can be really proud to say that I live here.”
Steven Oliver, a resident from Hornchurch Court, said: “I moved into the block about 12 years ago, and back then it was known by the residents as ‘Strangeways 2’. The blocks have been completely transformed. I now tell my friends I live in a loft apartment, not a flat. The work has really changed the horizon of Hulme, removing some of the relics of the past and helping to make it a more desirable place to live.”
Dave Power, Chief Executive of City South Manchester Housing Trust said: “This project has given a new lease of life to Hulme’s 1960s tower blocks. They have gone from drab, decaying buildings into desirable, modern homes which are comfortable and economical to run. The investment has made an enormous difference to our tenants’ quality of life and lifted the appearance of the whole area.
“We’re proud that we have been able to achieve such a transformative effect while managing to avoid outright demolition – which can have major environmental and financial implications. This project means that Hulme’s iconic tower blocks can live on for many decades to come.”
The tower blocks are predominantly located on or near Chorlton Rod, Stretford Road and Boundary Lane. They can be found at Duffield Court, Fulton Court, Hornchurch Court, Royce Court, Thomas Court, Westcott Court, St George’s Court, Ledburn Court and Hopton Court.