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James Nisbet Street, Roystonhill, Glasgow

James Nisbet Street, Roystonhill, Glasgow

Refurbishment of 150 post-war tenement properties to improve thermal insulation


This project entailed the refurbishment and upgrading of 150 units of post-war tenement property to improve thermal insulation and bring the properties in line with current building standards. In a phased project that offered the tenants of James Nisbet Street the opportunity to participate in a community-based decision making process it addressed not only poor energy performance but also the appropriate mix of dwelling sizes and restored pride in the area.



The old character of the post-war buildings was re-designed to provide buildings that looked contemporary, and which were tailor made to suit the requirements of the users.

Tenants were given the choice of glazed in ‘sunspace’ balconies with heavyweight floors and walls to store solar energy or Retention of balconies or Extended living areas by enclosing balconies. There was some negotiation required in order that the resulting façade was well ordered with extended living spaces on the ground floor, balconies at first floor and sunspaces on the upper two floors.

Ventilation was improved by extracting from north facing kitchens and bathrooms to draw warm air from south facing spaces to north. This in turn meant that the running costs of the properties were greatly reduced to the benefit of the tenants. Tenants were given the choice of retaining existing open balconies or enclosing them as extended rooms or sunspaces to take advantage of the orientation and to maximise passive solar gain.

The project also included the use of sustainable and non-toxic materials including water based paints, linoleum flooring, timber windows, natural clay drainage, solid wood external doors and solid wood skirtings and trims.


Energy efficiency specification is shown in the table below.


Before refurbishment

After refurbishment



150mm glass fibre loft insulation between joists

External walls

Render – 103mm brick – 50mm cavity (unfilled) – 103mm brick

External glass fibre/acrylic overcladding system incorporating 60mm mineral wool insulation. Overcladding taken to ground level.


Single glazing

Timber framed double glazing (12mm air gap) and draughtstripping



Mechanical extract fans (with humidistat controls) to bathroom and kitchen.


Under floor electric heating

Electric fires, gas fired condensing combination boiler (fan assisted flue) with programmer, room thermostat and TRV’s

Hot water

Electric immersion heaters

From condensing combination boiler system


The analysis showed that the low SAP ratings before refurbishment were hugely improved to excellent figures of 85 and above. The annual space and water heating costs were estimated to have reduced by 87% for the top floor flat and 84% for the first floor flat, with reductions in CO2 emissions estimated at 66% and 52% respectively.


Estimated SAP ratings and CO2 emissions before and after refurbishment were calculated.


Top floor 2 bed mid-flat

First floor 1-bed gable flat





SAP rating





CO2 emissions (tonnes/year)








Roystonhill at the commencement of the project was a particularly incoherent community with a variety of social issues; however Assist Architects showed their commitment to the project by moving an office into a vacant flat in order to allow them to engage with the community from the outset. The fact that the area has become a model for community participation in refurbishment which has required minimal maintenance is testament to the on-going commitment of the residents and the local Housing Co-operative/ Housing Association.

The Architect had a desire to reuse as many elements in the building as possible however this proved difficult to manage at that point in time. This may be less of an issue now with the introduction of new legislation on waste to landfill. However it is important to remember in projects such as this that not only the aspirations of the design team but also those of the tenants have to be fully considered- an internal facelift may not be a priority for the design team but for tenants this was a key issue.


Assist Architects

James Nisbet Housing Co-operative is now part of Spire View

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