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Ibroxholm Oval, Glasgow

Ibroxholm Oval, Glasgow

This project brings back into use a previously condemned high rise block of flats, upgraded and converted to suit a change of tenure from social housing to mid market rent.

Overview

When GHA assumed responsibility for Glasgow City Council’s social housing stock, Multi-Storey Flats (MSFs) accounted for 23,543 (almost one third) of the total dwellings, and of the 201 towers that were included, only 73 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).

As a result, the 3 Ibroxholm tower blocks, each standing at 22 storeys, were earmarked for demolition. However, in early 2011, the Scottish Government approved £1.1m of funding from its ‘Innovation and Investment Fund’ towards the cost of redeveloping one of the buildings, 15 Ibroxholm Oval, whilst an additional £1.1m of funding was secured from the Community Energy Savings Programme (CESP) in partnership with Scottish Power. Thereafter, further investment was set aside to fund the proposed £7m transformation of the building and its surroundings.

Given the nature of the investment it was intended that Lowther Homes, part of the Wheatley Group (which was formed in 2012 as an ‘umbrella’ for 4 housing associations, including GHA and other subsidiaries), would operate the building for mid-market rent for those on modest incomes who are unlikely to qualify for social housing but who might be struggling to either buy a home or rent at full market rates. This would alter the building from its previous social housing tenure to provide affordable flats for young professionals and city centre commuters, particularly given the block’s proximity to the new South Glasgow University Hospital, the Digital Media Quarter at Pacific Quay, and the transport links to the city.

Approach

In the early stages of the project it was crucial to gain an understanding of the building’s capabilities and the limitations that the various types of construction utilised on the original fabric presented (a combination of masonry and concrete panel constructions), with further complications posed by the numerous balconies to the east, west and south facades. As a result, various intrusive investigations were undertaken to the existing fabric (behind the concrete cladding and to the masonry elements) in order to determine which cladding options would be feasible.

Following these investigations, it was crucial that a balance be struck between the client’s aspirations, the structural capability of the existing building fabric, the thermal efficiency improvements required and the visual appeal of the materials utilised. 3DReid therefore worked closely with Wates, Ramboll and the Lowther Homes to develop options to form an aesthetic which met these various requirements.

As a result, the initial project concept sought to introduce a robust material and warm colour to enhance public areas and main core, in this case red brick to the ground floors unified with red terracotta rainscreen to the main façade directly above the entrance. Next, the corner element to the south west of the building was lifted to split the facade and break-up the mass, with pearl grey terracotta rainscreen above, whilst the corner to the south east facade was highlighted in dark grey terracotta rainscreen and the colour carried through the balcony enclosures to the east façade, which were set against a crisp white PermaRock Mineral Fibre external wall insulation system to the remainder of the facades.

This saw the removal of some of the balconies to the east façade in order that balcony ‘pods’ could be formed, generally consisting of 4 separate balconies, which create a feature but also maximise the thermal efficiency of the walls by reducing the thermal breaks that the original balcony slabs would have generated. The tiny balconies to the south façade were also removed and the original ventilated drying room walls infilled, again improving the thermal efficiency of the walls but also allowing the internal spaces to become more attractive lobbies at the various lift landings (which were generally every 3rd floor to suit the maisonette layouts) or to be adopted by the adjacent flats as an additional bedroom.

The new entrance lobby was another significant element of the works, being the main transition space for tenants and visitors, as well as being the location of the concierge. Various options were considered, with the final solution being fully glazed with a 2 storey foyer which addresses Edminston Drive and is set against the existing mature trees.

Performance

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

Nonetheless, there are obvious benefits, with the original walls and their various construction scenarios achieving u-values of approximately 3.3W/m2K, which following the addition the TI Tiles Rainscreen system (incorporating 125mm of insulation), PermaRock Mineral Fibre external wall insulation system (incorporating 110mm-120mm of insulation), and the masonry cavity walls to the ground floor areas (incorporating 50mm of insulation), these were all improved to achieve u-values in the range of 0.26-0.27W/m2K.

The original roof was in relatively poor condition prior to works, with various areas of pooling water and the waterproof coating failing. However, following refurbishment, which included the introduction of 120mm of insulation with an Alwitra Evalon V waterproof coating (incorporating a polyester fleece backing); the u-value is now 0.15W/m2K, exceeding the contemporary requirements for a new build project.

GHA have also suggested that a refurbishment project of this extent, with external and internal works being undertaken alongside the CHP boiler installation would “be 15 times more carbon efficient than producing a likenumber of new-build properties” (GHA, October 21, 2011).

Lessons

The works undertaken by Lowther Homes have fully transformed 15 Ibroxholm Oval from being dilapidated and unpleasant into a landmark which is now attractive and welcoming. Such regeneration gives the building a new lease of life which, in spite of initial scepticism within the local community given the building’s chequered past, has now allowed it to reinvigorate the area and welcome new people to the neighbourhood.

The project demonstrates that towers of this nature can have a new beginning in order that they meet modern energy performance requirements and contribute to their surroundings. It can also be argued that such work represents ‘real’ sustainability by reimagining the building and its use whilst avoiding the need for demolition within 50 years of its original construction.

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