Horbury Facades Support Reinvention Of Concrete Cities

Adrian Storey, General Manager at Horbury Facades, looks at city centre regeneration and how rainscreen cladding is helping to revitalise and reinvigorate former urban areas.

“Many towns and cities throughout the UK are currently undergoing a resurgence. Under investment in the past two to three decades has led to a serious need for regeneration in some areas. Urban Regeneration, which is the attempt to reverse the decline of the UK’s cities by improving building structure and the economy, is becoming increasingly prevalent as towns and cities aim to compete, not only on a local scale, but to attract global visitors.

To attract shoppers, visitors and inward investors, towns and cities not only have to have the infrastructure in place, but they also need to be aesthetically pleasing. Here rainscreen cladding opens up endless opportunities for transforming the aesthetics of former concrete structures. Innovative external facades are allowing for the creation of exciting new contemporary buildings.

In the 60s and 70s, concrete was the material of choice for constructing large-scale developments, such as shopping centres, residential tower blocks and public buildings, which resulted in a number of urban areas, such as Birmingham and Hull being referred to as ‘the concrete cities’.

As times have changed so have people’s needs, with buildings reaching the end of their lifespans, combined with the population trend towards people living in city centres and demand for better quality housing, cities are having to be redeveloped.

With many thousands of these former concrete buildings across the UK requiring some form of upgrade, low maintenance rainscreen cladding that retains its aesthetic appeal is a compelling choice. The introduction of modern finishes such as painted glass, lacquers and patinations have all helped to transform existing buildings into places where people want to live and work.

Manchester is one area that has benefited greatly from one of the largest regeneration projects in the UK. Once an industrial boomtown, following the Second World War the city, like many others in the North, experienced decline, which left it with many large, neglected industrial buildings that affected the aesthetics of the city for a time.

Since 1996 a multi-billion pound rejuvenation has taken place, which has led to Manchester becoming one of the most prosperous cities in the North. Twenty years later Barclays Prosperity Index Report found that Manchester performed strongly on entrepreneurial activity, seeing some of the largest increases in SME turnover at 15%. As a result of this and largely due to major corporations such as the BBC moving its northern operations into the city, it is expected that in the next five years Manchester will see more growth in office-based employment than anywhere else in the UK.  

The incorporation of modern facades has transformed many traditional concrete buildings in the city, such as the Three Towers, a trio of identical apartment blocks that were erected in the 1960s and have since been refurbished and regenerated into stylish, affordable homes and aesthetically pleasing structures. This type of transformation is helping Manchester to rival cities such as London with its striking skyline that continues to change.

And it’s not only the major cities that are being reinvigorated as a result of high quality facades. Warrington has recently invested £107m in the renewal of Bridge Street Quarter, an area close to the town centre which was looking tired and in need of redevelopment. The area is set to benefit from a new cinema, market hall, offices, retail units and a public square, as well as a multi storey car park.

The car park is of particular interest as it follows a trend in city centre regeneration, that of redeveloping these often ugly buildings for the purpose of improving the overall aesthetics of an area. As a result, it is an extremely important aspect of Warrington’s regeneration plan.

On this project, Horbury Facades was appointed to detail, supply and install a new terracotta tiled facade with an intricate and complex design, which was supported by a rain screen backing rail system to stepped light steel vertical cassette panels. We installed the individually coloured terracotta tiles, to meet the architects’ design specification and colour aspirations. Compared to assembling multiple panels on site, the cassette system allows the terracotta tiles to be installed up to 50% faster.

The use of rainscreen cladding will not only speed up the development, as modern methods mean it can be installed in all weathers, but the finish of the building can also include intricate designs that would not be possible with other materials such as brick and concrete. This innovative facade will also protect the structure from the elements, specifically rainwater, by preventing it from penetrating across the rear ventilated cavity and reaching the exterior wall of the building.

Understandably, reinventing an entire town or city can be costly. However, over cladding to provide better aesthetics or as part of a full refurbishment when the building is subject to change of use, gives the option of updating old structures. With a choice of colours and decorative effects offered,  rainscreen cladding can also be designed to complement other existing buildings in the area so that the look and feel is consistent throughout the city.

So it’s easy to see why rainscreen cladding is playing such a monumental role in the redevelopment of some of the UK’s major towns and cities. However, with a wide range of different facade options available, local authorities and private developers would be well advised to work with a specialist rainscreen cladding design and installation company, like Horbury Facades, that can advise on meeting building regulations and in the use of installation techniques to ensure the architect’s vision can be realised.”

With experience of working with a range of materials including composite panels, high pressure laminates, terracotta tiles, steel and aluminium cassette systems; and with a full design and installation service, Horbury Facades applies its expertise to regeneration projects throughout the UK. For more information, call 01709 515044.

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