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Dougrie Place, Overcladding Project, Castlemilk, Glasgow

Dougrie Place, Overcladding Project, Castlemilk, Glasgow

This case study looks at the overcladding of three high rise blocks in a very prominent site in Glasgow. 

Overview

Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) assumed responsibility for Glasgow City Council’s social housing stock (80,000 dwellings) on 07 March 2003 and as part of the transfer agreement there were several key requirements with regard to the upgrading of dwellings. Moreover, the Scottish Government announced the introduction of the Scottish Housing Quality Standards (SHQS) in February 2004.

As a result, the GHA, like all other Registered Social Landlords, were set a target of 2015 to achieve the requirements that SHQS sought, thus GHA had an obligation to invest in many of its dwellings in order that they could meet these standards.

The GHA then prepared an initial ‘Investment Programme’ which set out a 10 year, £150billion, refurbishment timetable involving a number of partnering Constructors. The Programme was split into fourteen Works Packages, of which ‘Common Element Improvements to Multi-Storey Blocks’ was one. Following a complex tender process, three constructors were appointed for this package, one of which was Wates Living Space.

At the time, Multi-Storey Flats (MSFs) accounted for 23,543 (almost one third) of GHA’s housing stock, a total of 201 towers, 73 of which were cleared for investment (GHA identified a ‘sustainable’ proportion of its stock by undertaking their ‘Housing Futures Assessment’ programme, a sample of 20% of the total stock).

In the initial Contract Programme of 2006, Wates Living Space were allocated a total of 33 blocks across 11 sites, followed thereafter in 2008 by a further 12 blocks across 3 sites, including the 3 blocks at Dougrie Place, and in 2010-2011 by a further 8 blocks across 2 sites. 

Following their success in the tender process, Wates then appointed their own consultants, with 3DReid providing architectural input and WSP Group acting as structural engineers, resulting in a small and relatively close-knit Design Team that suited the requirements of the project.

Approach

Following the GHA works packages, an individual brief was developed for each and in this instance, for the ‘External refurbishment of multi-storey blocks of flats’, the GHA required that each refurbishment project comprise of the provision of external insulation and overcladding to all elevations, supply and installation of new roofs, and canopies over the entrance.

They also included a statement of ‘Design Intent and Aspirations’ as follows: “MSFs are normally viewed from afar but experienced close up. Whether erected in groups or as a single block, MSFs are hardly ever seen singularly; they are almost always viewed with adjacent tower blocks sited in the corner of the eye or as full backdrops.”

(Glasgow Housing Association 2004) 

As a result it was crucial that the various project teams be aware of the setting and urban context of each block as design options were produced. This meant that issues such as the grouping (number of blocks at each location) and mass of the blocks, the skyline and backdrop circumstances and the approach and passer-by experience were crucial. It was also made clear that any proposal which may prove to be a ‘blight’ on the City or which did not have ‘empathy’ with the block’s urban context would be rejected.

In the case of Dougrie Place the site presents a number of unique challenges, particularly as it is visible from much of the city, and is arguably the most exposed of all of the 16 sites on which Wates undertook work.

In the early stages of the project it was crucial to gain an understanding of the buildings’ capabilities and the limitations that the type of construction presented. Works had been undertaken on these blocks previously to apply a profiled metal cladding to the external facades (coloured in mustard to two of the blocks and maroon to the other), which, as well as being rather dated looking, offered little or no thermal capability. As a result, numerous intrusive investigations were undertaken to the existing fabric (behind the profiled cladding) in order to determine which of the preferred cladding methods offered by the contractor would be suitable. 

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Following these investigations, it was found that the application of a PermaRock Mineral Fibre external wall insulation system would be acceptable from a thermal perspective to achieve the u-value targets set by the GHA, and from a safety perspective to comply with the wind and loading requirements. Following similar investigations to the roof, it was decided that a Decothane Gamma 20 Roof Coating System would be applied, to both insulate and re-waterproof the areas.

Whilst improving the thermal efficiency of the buildings was a key driver of the project, the appearance of the towers was also significant, as highlighted in the project brief. 3DReid therefore worked closely with Wates and the Local Housing Association to develop options, including attendance at residents meetings, to form an aesthetic which met the brief and which suited the tenant’s wishes. As a result, a simple white palette was selected, with highlights in grey to the windows and balconies, which modernised the buildings and suited their context.

The refurbishment works were then undertaken over the course of 2010-2011.

 

Performance

As the works focussed only on the external fabric of the buildings the project was not subject to benchmarking against any generic evaluation system, with the scope of works and the selected wall and roofing solutions driven by the client’s brief and the contractor’s preferred approach for such projects.

Nonetheless, there are obvious benefits, with the original concrete walls achieving a u-value of approximately 3.28W/m2K, which following the addition the PermaRock Mineral Fibre external wall insulation system (which incorporated 130mm of insulation) was improved to a u-value of 0.25W/m2K, thus exceeding the GHA’s requirements for a u-value no worse than 0.27W/m2Kand meeting the contemporary requirements for a new build project.

The original roof was achieving a u-value of approximately 2.78W/m2K, but following works, which included the introduction of 120mm of Kingspan insulation, the u-value is now 0.20W/m2K. As well as these theoretical demonstrations of thermal improvement, tenants have also noted a marked improvement in the warmth of the buildings.

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Lessons

Sustainability is a concern within the construction industry as a whole and despite the fact that the term is rather widespread, it can be argued that these projects represent ‘real’ sustainability by avoiding the need to demolish buildings within 40 or 50 years of their construction.

The works undertaken by GHA and Wates have allowed the fabric of these old structures to meet modern energy requirements and presented GHA with a stock-pool of social housing which can be maintained.

In turn, the need for GHA to invest in new-build projects at a higher overall cost has been lessened and, by improving the thermal efficiency of the blocks and their external skins, the useful life of the fabric has been extended by up to 30 years.

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