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MSc Thesis

University of East London

School of Computing and Technology
Docklands Campus
4-6 University Way
E16 2RD
Telephone: 0208 2233000

Graduate School of the Environment

Centre for Alternative Technology,
SY20 9AZ
Tel: 01654 704968

James Livingstone
January 2008


Housing contributes almost a third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. A
coherent strategy is needed to reduce these emissions from the existing
housing stock.

Mass redevelopment of housing in the 1950’s 60’s and 70’s delivered estates
of ‘non traditional’ dwellings. The consequent movement and disruption of
communities caused social problems, and the tower block came to symbolise
all the worst aspects of design and build of the times.

The reputation of the tower block has been blighted in almost all respects.
Beyond social issues, the tower block has come to be thought of as energy
inefficient and considered the epitome of the ‘Hard to Treat Home’.

This thesis looks at whether this reputation is well founded and relevant today.
It asks if tower blocks have a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from
the UK housing stock, or if energy priorities will dictate that they should be first
in line for demolition and replacement by more efficient dwellings.

It seeks also to provide tools for tower block owners to use in making
investment decisions about their housing stock.

Architecture, build quality, and condition are looked at to see whether there is
a design and structural basis for preserving tower blocks. Structural condition
is sometimes a spurious reason for demolition of tower blocks when social and
estate management issues are really the problem.

Stock knowledge and analysis of UK housing is assessed, and the conclusions

reached that what is known about the stock is inadequate for current purpose,
and that the analysis of that knowledge unfairly blights certain building types
including tower blocks.

Refurbishment case studies show the inconsistency in approach that tower

block owners have at the moment.

Thermal simulation is used to model energy use and heat losses in tower
blocks under a variety of scenarios. Results indicate that, although costs can
be high because of the access equipment required to carry out works,
form and layout of tower blocks are actually conducive to relatively simple
improvements in insulation and glazing, that can make tower blocks very
energy efficient dwellings.

Calculations of embodied energy in demolition, refurbishment and

replacement dwellings reflect well on the lifetime energy use of a refurbished
tower block when compared with an energy efficient new dwelling.
I am very grateful to:

- Melissa Taylor, my tutor for this project, for general support and her
comments on the proposal and drafts.

- Damian Randle, and Mike Thompson for their support throughout the MSc

- Anthony Dickins and Prija of Wates Construction Limited who were very
generous with their time discussing and demonstrating the work at the Little
Venice refurbishment project in Westminster.

- Architects Kemp, Muir, Wealleans for further information about the Little
Venice project.

- Staff of The Apollo Group working on the refurbishment of Peregrine and

Kestrel Houses in Islington who went out of their way to show me round the
project with little notice.

- Graeme and Steven Henn of Islington Energy Centre for their time discussing
the energy strategy at Islington BC, and in particular the proposed installation
of a wind turbine on Kestrel House.

- Chris Goodings at Solar Energy Alliance, for further discussions about the
proposed wind turbine on Kestrel House.

- Graham Hill, David Green, and Andrew Chambers at Norwich City Council
for discussion, copies of plans and access to Normandie Tower in Norwich.

- The Zero Carbon Britain project, the production of which coexisted with the
thesis and encouraged my research into energy use and carbon emissions in

- Andrew Holland, energy consultant, for fuel use figures for Winchester Tower

- Duncan Josh and Jamie Bull for support and comment during the work.

- Pedro for his helpful comments on Modernism

- My partner Nicci for proof reading, supporting me and tolerating an unhealthy

level of interest in tower blocks for 6 months.

James Livingstone. Norfolk. January 2008

Abbreviations and Glossary


1. Introduction 1

2. Literature Review 4

3.1. Understanding High Rise Buildings - History and Architecture 9

3.2. Understanding High Rise Buildings - Construction 17

3.3. Understanding High Rise Buildings - Condition 26

4. Environmental, Social and Legislative Issues 33

5. Classification and Comparison 39

6. Case Studies 47

7. Analysis of Heat Loads in High Rise Residential Buildings 66

8. Improvements to Thermal Performance - Potentials and

Practicalities 77

9. The Environmental Impact of Demolition, Replacement and

Refurbishment of High Rise Blocks 86

10. Summary and Conclusions 96

Appendices 100

Bibliography 105
Pictures and Tables
Figure 1 The Bahrein Trade Centre (eso-news) ............................................... 8
Figure 2: The Modern tower block ................................................................... 9
Figure 3 : Unite D’habitation ( Photograph:Great buildings on line’)............... 11
Table 1 Post war Multi-storey Approvals and Starts...................................... 13
Figure 4 : Expressions of Modern frame construction (via .Glendenning and
Muthesius)............................................................................................... 17
Figure 5: Column and Beam Construction..................................................... 19
Aylmer Tower in Norwich is an example of a column and Beam type
construction with brick in- fill panels. Post and beams, which are cast first,
can be seen clearly in the photograph..................................................... 19
Figure 6: Butterfield Court in Dudley is an example of Box frame construction
................................................................................................................ 19
Figure 7: Normandie Tower in Norwich is a Wimpey ‘No fines’ concrete block
................................................................................................................ 20
Figure 8: Stephenson Tower in Birmingham is an example of LPS construction
................................................................................................................ 20
Table 3 : Bison Wall external wall construction .............................................. 21
Table 4: Bison Wall thermal characteristics results......................................... 22
Table 5 : Recorded Insulation thickness for LPS type blocks ......................... 22
Table 6: Cavity Wall Thermal Characteristics ................................................ 23
Table 7: ‘No fines’ Concrete Thermal Characteristics ..................................... 23
Table 8 : Typical thermal bridging components.............................................. 23
Figure 9: The Collapse of Ronan Point ( Photograph BBC)............................. 26
Table 9 Indicative estimates for external repair costs to high rise blocks....... 30
Table 10: Estimated Costs for Decent Homes Improvements ...................... 31
Table 11: Total UK domestic energy consumption by end use (DCLG 2007) . 35
Table 12: Growth in Total UK domestic energy consumption by end use (DTI,
2005) ....................................................................................................... 36
Table 13 : Stock Profile (EHCS 2005)............................................................ 42
Table 14: Condition of Homes (EHCS 2005) ................................................ 43
Table 15: Condition of Homes Extracts from ECHS (EHCS 2005) ............... 44
Table 16: heating costs and carbon dioxide emissions by dwelling type ....... 45
Table 17: Glastonbury House basic information ............................................ 49
Table 18: Glastonbury House. Key (predicted) performance data ................ 49
Figure 10 : Glastonbury House proposal (Image : Cole Thompson Anders
Architects. ) ............................................................................................. 50
Table 19: Makartstrasse Flats : basic information........................................... 52
Table 20: Makartstrasse Flats. Post Occupancy Costs, Energy and Carbon
performance. ........................................................................................... 52
Figure 11 : ...................................................................................................... 53
Makartstrasse Flats before the refurbishment programme ............................. 53
Figure 12: ....................................................................................................... 53
Makartstrasse Flats after the refurbishment programme ................................ 53
Information on this project came from Euroace. ............................................. 54
Table 21 : Ozolciema iela 46/3, basic information .......................................... 54
Table 22: Ozolciema iela 46/3. Cost, Energy and Carbon Performance........ 54
Figure 13: Ozolciema iela 46/3 (Photograph Euroace).................................. 54
Table 23: Little Venice Towers - basic information ......................................... 56
Table 24: Little Venice Towers . Cost Energy and Carbon Performance......... 56
Figure 14: Polesworth House before refurbishment as the scaffolding is being
erected .................................................................................................... 58
Figure 15: Wilmcote House after refurbishment with the scaffold being
dismantled............................................................................................... 58
Figure 16: Over cladding and insulation detail on Little Venice project.......... 58
Table 25: Kestrel and Peregrine Houses – basics .......................................... 59
Table 26: Kestrel and Peregrine Houses. Cost, Energy and Carbon
performance ............................................................................................ 59
Table 27: Wind turbine feasibility figures ....................................................... 60
Figure 17: Kestrel House, Islington , soon to be home to a wind turbine........ 60
Table 28: Six Towers Norwich – basics.......................................................... 62
Table 29: Six Towers Norwich. Cost, Energy and Carbon performance ........ 62
Figure 18: Normandie Tower IES Model......................................................... 69
Figure 19: Normandie Tower Photograph....................................................... 69
Table 30: IES VE Analysis of Boiler loads for Normandie Tower –(Whole
Block) ...................................................................................................... 71
Table 31: Flat by flat results of IES.VE analysis ............................................. 72
Table 32: Comparison of heat loads for flat and same construction bungalow.
................................................................................................................ 73
Table 33: Actual and IES simulation figures for whole block boiler loads ...... 74
Table 34 : Projected savings in cost of oil (per annum) from insulation
measures ................................................................................................ 75
Figure 20: Aluminium over cladding at Little Venice has dramatically improved
the look of the blocks............................................................................... 78
Figure 21: The corrugated concrete at Kestrel House has been expertly
repaired. .................................................................................................. 79
Figure 22 : Detailing for cladding installation .................................................. 79
Table 35: How Orientation and Tilt affect Photovoltaic Electricity Generation
Potential .................................................................................................. 83
Table 36: Calculation of Mass. Embodied Energy and Embodied Carbon in
Normandie Tower .................................................................................... 89
Table 37: Embodied Energy of new buildings (ECI 2007 p1)......................... 90
Table 38: Calculating the embodied energy of insulated cladding .................. 91
Table 39: Calculating the embodied energy of new windows ......................... 91
Table 40: Benchmark figures for energy use for space heating from hot water
................................................................................................................ 92
Figure 23: PassivHaus and refurbished flat. Lifetime energy use compared93
Table 41: Examples of development densities................................................ 94
Table 42: Normandie and Winchester Towers , Norwich. Existing
Construction details............................................................................... 101
Figure 24: Ground Floor Plan of Winchester Tower...................................... 102
Table 43: Tower Block modelled variables for IES VE simulations ............... 103
Table 44: Oil consumption for Winchester Tower, Norwich. .......................... 104
Abbreviations and Glossary

BRE: Building Research Establishment

Bredem: Building Research Establishment Domestic Energy Model
Bredem is the name given to a family of simple but reliable energy
calculation procedures for dwellings. It was first developed in the early
1980s and, as a result of continuous testing and development, it has
become very widely used. (BRE 2007)
CERT : Carbon Emissions Reduction Target 2008-2011.
This is the name given to the obligation on energy suppliers to support
renewable energy sources, previously referred to as the Energy
Efficiency Commitment (EEC). The government proposes to double the
level of the present EEC with a continuing focus on low income
CO : Carbon Dioxide
CHP : Combined Heat and Power .
This term normally applies to the local generation of electricity, the by-
product of which (heat) is supplied to local homes through a district
heating distribution network.
Cibse: Chartered Institute of Building Surveying Engineers
CSE: Centre for Sustainable Energy.
An independent charity founded in 1979 established to seek and
promote energy solutions for individuals and communities.
DH: Decent Homes:
The Decent Homes Programme is a government initiative aimed at
bringing all houses in the rented sector up to a standard where they are
‘warm, weather proof and having modern facilities’. (DCLG 2007) In
reality, the thermal comfort criteria for Decent Homes are so low as to
have little impact on works programmes and improving thermal
efficiency of buildings.
Defra: Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs
DTI: Department of Trade and Industry
ECI: Environmental Change Institute
Centre for research, outreach and graduate studies in environmental
change and management at Oxford Brookes University. Authors of the
40% house.
EEC: Energy Efficiency Commitment
The obligation on energy suppliers to support renewable energy
sources, soon to become CERT.
Euroace: The European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in
Organisation set up in 1998 by 20 large European companies, all
involved in the business of energy efficiency in buildings.
GHG : Greenhouse gases
HTTH: Hard To Treat Homes.
HTTH are generally defined as dwellings which have no loft or cavity
where insulation can be installed. The term is often used more
HECA: Home Energy Conservation Act
The Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 (HECA) requires every UK
local authority with housing responsibilities to prepare, publish and
submit to the Secretary of State an energy conservation report
identifying practicable and cost-effective measures to significantly
improve the energy efficiency of all residential accommodation in their
area , and report on progress made in implementing the measures.
(Defra 2008)
IES VE : Integrated Environmental Solutions Virtual Environment
Building simulation computer programme.
Insulation types :
Thermosetting. Includes Polyisocanurates, phenolic foams and
Thermoplastic Extruded and expanded polystyrene
Wool types
KWh: Kilowatt hours
LA: Local Authority
MWh : Megawatt Hour
Non-traditional construction:
This broad definition describes construction types built between 1919
and 1980 that were prefabricated or system built. They amount to about
one million in number and include a variety of steel framed, concrete
and timber framed buildings.(NCEH 2008)
NCEH : National Centre for Excellence in Housing
No Fines Concrete:
Concrete in which a lower proportion than usual of sand and other fines
are included. This produces aerated concrete of lighter weight, less
strength and marginally improved thermal performance suitable for non
load bearing walls. These were pioneered and used most extensively
by Wimpey in post war flats and houses.
NSTBI: National Sustainable Tower Blocks Initiative
The term 'PassivHaus' refers to a specific construction standard for
residential buildings which have excellent comfort conditions in both
winter and summer.
PassivHaus dwellings typically achieve an energy saving of 90%
compared to existing housing. The standard was developed in Germany
and there are to date at least 6000 dwellings built to the standard.
(PassivHaus UK 2008)
RCEP: Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution
Retscreen is a Canadian renewable energy assessment computer
programme that is widely used to establish potentials of renewable
energy sources in different situations.(Retscreen 2007)
ROC: Renewable Obligations Certificate.
This is the certificate issued to producers of renewable electricity. One
ROC is issued for every megawatt of eligible renewable power
produced. Renewables obligation orders are served on electricity
generators to incentivise the move from fossil fuel generation to
generation from renewable sources . The Orders place an obligation on
licensed electricity generators to source an increasing proportion of
electricity from renewable sources.
ROCs have value and are traded from those who generate more
electricity from renewables than they need to fulfil their obligations, to
those who generate less than they need. (ofgem 2008)
RSL: Registered Social Landlord
SAP: Standard Assessment Procedure
SAP is the Government’s Procedure for energy rating of dwellings. It is
used to demonstrate compliance with building regulations and to
provide energy ratings for dwellings. (BRE 2008)
U Value:
‘U- value’ is the rate of heat flow over unit area of any building
component calculated through unit overall temperature difference
between both sides of the component. (Clear 2008)
Warm Front:
The Warm Front Scheme addresses fuel poverty issues by awarding
grants for the installation of heating or insulation to those in receipt of
benefits or credits. (
ZCB: Zero Carbon Britain
1. Introduction
Europe is facing crises in the climate, energy security and housing.

With over a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK coming from

existing housing, and with housing in short supply and poor condition, some
tough decisions are needed.

Why Tower Blocks?

High rise dwellings number some 300,000 in England and 36,000,000 in
Europe, representing about 1.5% and 15% of the housing stock respectively.
(English House Condition Survey 2008, Euroace 2008)

High rise dwellings are not just numerically significant in themselves. They
also act as an archetype of construction for a lot of the housing buildings
constructed between 1950 and 1980. There are for example, a further
2,677,000 medium rise purpose built flats in the England having similar
construction details as high rise. (English House Condition Survey 2008)

Further, they have a symbolic importance, initially of post war architectural

optimism, and later of social breakdown and urban deprivation. They stand tall
and significant in the urban ‘skyscape’ of all Europe’s major cities.

However, society has suffered from problems arising from the vast social
experiment that post war housing became.

Because of these problems, high rise buildings are still being demolished at an
unprecedented rate, this despite signs of a renewed interest in their potential.

In the current rush to redevelop post war estates and build new communities,
there is a very real risk of repeating the mistakes of the past, when good
buildings were wiped away with the bad in widespread demolition and
redevelopment schemes that were based on social and political imperatives,
rather than on careful assessment of the stock.

Energy Standards
Legislation and guidance for new housing is being introduced to ensure that
new dwellings at least, are built to high energy efficiency standards.

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Laudable as this is, it has limited impact on carbon dioxide emissions from the
UK housing stock, because, at present rates of construction and demolition,
over 90% of UK housing in 50 years time will be the buildings that exist now.1

There is no matching legislation and guidance for existing housing. Energy

improvement works to these have so far focused on the ‘quick hits’ of loft and
cavity wall insulation. However, there is a growing realisation that this does not
reach enough of the stock, and cavity wall insulation in itself rarely produces
the improvements in the thermal performance of a building that are now

There is little incentive, little information and little support for energy efficient
approaches to refurbishment, and where high rise blocks are being
refurbished instead of being demolished, they are apparently being done with
little recognition of the need for energy efficiency.

Should priorities change?

This thesis therefore, aims to examine the environmental credentials of the
high rise residential block to assess its potential in a world where energy use
must play a bigger part in decision making.

The limited amount of the previous work in this area is looked at in chapter
two. This thesis attempts to go further. It tries to make specific contributions to
the decision making process about high rise buildings, by providing new
perspectives and an energy model for building owners to apply to their
housing investment decisions.

Local social circumstances will sometimes dictate the future of an estate, and
this is as it should be. Although it is not the business of this thesis to do any
more than to recognise that as a fact, it does try and look behind some of the
preconceptions arising from the perceptions of those problems. These are
looked at in some detail in chapter three.

For example, it is commonly thought that high rise blocks were ill conceived
and badly designed from the start. It is often said that tower blocks were badly
built and are falling down. If either contention were fundamentally true,
investment of any sort would not be worthwhile. Construction science and
types are examined to put these ideas to the test.

Chapter four looks in greater detail at the environmental and legislative context
in which the study is being done, and provides an introduction to the debate
about lifetime energy performance in new and refurbished buildings. This
continues in chapter five with examination of the concept of ‘ hard to treat

Demolition rates currently at about 20,000 per year and new build at 180,000 per year. (CAT

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homes’ and whether the labelling of high rise blocks as ‘hard to treat’ is correct
or still relevant given the available evidence.

Case studies are not easily found, but several contractors, architects and local
authorities were good enough to give comprehensive access to some
interesting refurbishment projects, and these are looked at in detail in chapter
six, together with some secondary research downloaded from government
sponsored, and commercial web sites. These provide an empirical base for the
later analysis.

Computer modelling is used in chapter seven to analyse the thermal

performance of a particular tower block, and to measure the effects of energy
efficiency improvements on it. The modelled improvements are external wall
insulation and double glazing, as these two basic measures address the shell
of the building where the heat losses to the majority of flats occur.

The practicalities of wall insulation and double glazing are addressed in

chapter eight.

It is the generally accepted presumption of this thesis that insulation should be

maximised before power generation from renewables is considered, but in
chapter nine, recognition is also given to the particular contributions that
district heating, combined heat and power (CHP), and renewable technologies
can make to high rise dwellings.

Demolition and refurbishment are compared in the last chapter, in terms of

embodied energy, energy in use and land use.

The conclusion assesses the success of the project.

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2. Literature Review
This chapter looks at the most significant contributions to the
study of sustainability of high rise dwellings. It aims to review
what is written and to ensure that the thesis is adding to these –
not duplicating them. It also acknowledges some of the most
important sources of background information for the thesis and
lastly, looks at some of the contemporary thinking about high rise

‘Sustaining Towers’ Resource and Website

This website was researched and written by Prashant Kapoor of Price and
Myers and published in 2004. It was set up by project partners, Price and
Myers, Battle McCarthy, Architype, STBI and Franklin Andrews, and was
funded by the Department of Trade and Industry.

It aims to:
“........ facilitate the regeneration of the 3000+ residential high rise blocks in the
UK with proposals for sustainable solutions integrating environmental, social
and economic criteria.”

The resource starts by putting the issues in context under the headings of:

• Background :
Why refurbish?, history of tower blocks, present context, case studies.
and ..
• Refurbishment Process:
Consultation, funding and decanting.

It takes a broad brush approach to a wide range of sustainability issues and

presents the issues as ‘design options’ for:

• Building roof, building facade, entrance and security, lifts, lobby and
corridors, flat layout , heating and hot water, electrical and IT, ventilation, water
supply, waste management, site and surroundings, landscape and
environment, and tenants and management.

Of these headings, the building facade is the most relevant to this thesis so it
is this that is looked at in more detail below to demonstrate the approach taken
by the Sustaining Towers resource.

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‘Building facade’ identifies the various opportunities for improvement to the
building facade as:

• ‘Basic’ including over cladding, add thermal insulation, replace windows ,

provide trickle vents , provide draft stripping.
• ‘Good’: provide solar shading, increase size of openings, enclose balconies
• ‘Exemplary’ : Install photo voltaic cladding

For each of these ‘opportunities’, the possible methods, advantages and

disadvantages and potential unit costs are briefly described.

It provides a very good overview of the possibilities, illustrated with examples

and some technical detail.

The breadth of view that it takes is exciting, and it looks for opportunities (such
as constructing extra floors and growing plants up the walls) that push the
boundaries back a bit from conventional thinking. A realm of possibilities
outside the normal scope of Local Authority (LA) or Registered Social Landlord
(RSL) work is presented.

It is perhaps this ambition that is also the limitation of the site, for whilst the
ideas are great, the opportunities for carrying out a lot of these improvements
are in reality only the preserve of the private sector.

Berkeley Homes have built extra stories on the fully privatised Aragon Tower in east
London, and this has helped finance the improvements to the rest of the block.

Few would argue however, that the change in tenure from social tenant to private owner is
as important a factor in ‘turning round’ this once dilapidated block, as is the investment in
sustainable physical improvements to it.

The LAs and RSLs that are the usual owners of these buildings are rarely in a
financial position to consider many of the options presented here. Officers
often have to fight for sufficient funds to carry out basic repairs let alone for

In reality, building owners faced with social deprivation, and structural

dilapidation and very limited budgets in an unsupportive political environment,
have to make hard and often unacceptable choices. If they are given the
opportunity to invest in their high rise blocks it is often only the basics that they
will be able looking at.

The site describes itself in part as a tool kit for building owners, but falls short
of the real detail to enable financial cases to be made for any of the options. It
is possible to estimate some costs, but no detailed information of the benefits
is given.

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Nevertheless, it is a useful resource that may have inspired some.

In terms of this thesis, ‘Sustaining Towers’ has been drawn on only in respect
of using some of the budget figures for energy improvements as comparators.

Leads to some of the examples given on the site have also been followed

National Sustainable Tower Blocks Initiative

The National Sustainable Tower Blocks Initiative (NSTBI) was set up to:

“.... address the need for a coherent strategy to improve the social and environmental
sustainability of Britain's tower blocks.”

The main product of the initiative, apart from co-sponsorship of the Sustaining
Towers resource above, seems to be the 2000 report ‘Streets in the Sky’ (Gale
and Church 2000) which introduces the subject and identifies the needs and
means of moving towards ‘sustainable’ tower blocks under the following

• ‘Tower Blocks matter’ introduces the subject and spells out the aims of the
NSTBI which include demonstration, disseminating good practice, influencing
policy, providing guidance to tenants.
• ‘Tower Blocks – the challenge’ identifies the perceived and actual problems
with tower blocks and the associated funding and management issues.
• ‘Making a start’ proposes new ways of thinking and identifies opportunities
and potential benefits of tower blocks.
• ‘Making it happen’ proposes ways of dealing with what it sees as the key
issue of funding, building communities, security, and management, all in the
context of urban regeneration.

Whilst there is some brief discussion of energy, particularly in relation to waste

when tower blocks are demolished, building ‘sustainable communities’ is the
basis of this initiative rather than energy and the environment.

The NSTBI appear to have been mostly inactive since 2000.

The European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings
(Euroace) was set up in 1998 by 20 large European companies, all involved in
the business of energy efficiency in buildings.

The information relevant to high rise dwellings is included in a published

document entitled ‘Changing the View ‘ (subtitled Energy Efficiency in the
Refurbishment of High Rise Buildings).

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It divides Europe into climatic zones, identifies the numbers of high rise
dwellings (36 million – or one in six households!), identifies the potential
improvements in terms of process (insulation, window improvement and
services improvements) and in terms of carbon saving, and makes
recommendations for policy and research.

This is a commercial site and its primary aim is to lobby, but there is useful
information particularly in respect of basic data and for the examples, some of
which are used later in the thesis.

Other Resources
It is important also to acknowledge the principal resources used for
background, context and technical understanding.

For historical and architectural context, Glendenning and Muthesius’ book The
Tower Block. Modern Public Housing in England Scotland and Northern
Ireland, was important. The website ‘From Here to Modernity’ was also useful
for further information this area.

For technical understanding and some early case studies, Building Research
Establishment (BRE) reports were well used.

For thermal simulation, the Integrated Energy Solutions Virtual Environment

(IES VE ) software was used. IES VE is among five widely used simulation
programmes in the UK. It has been tested using ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 140-
2001 building energy simulation software accreditation tests and is approved
by The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers for use under their
Low Carbon Consultant Programme. It is also approved for use for SAP
calculations and for compliance with part L2 of the Building Regulations.

For U Value calculations ‘Build Desk’ software was used. This software is
approved for use in calculations for SAP for Part L of the Building Regulations.

Other resources are referenced in the bibliography.

Contemporary thinking
Finally, it is worth giving space here to some of the recent renewed interest in
new high rise buildings, both residential and office based. Land pressure in
cities and shifts in planning perspectives, have meant that high rise buildings
now being built in all major cities once again.

There is surprise among many at this development, partly because of the

associations that high rise residential has with urban deprivation, and partly
because many see new high rise as unsustainable.

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It is not a part of this thesis to consider these issues in any depth, but it notes
the following in the interest of shedding light on some of the later discussions:

Sue Roaf (Roaf et al 2005 p240 - p265), argues strongly against new high rise,
on the grounds of cost, carbon footprint, psychological effects and shading.

She welcomes the potential opportunities for wind generators, transparent

photovoltaics and geothermal piles in high rise developments, but highlights
their limitations because of the poor ratio of roof to floor space. She also
recognises that extra energy demands are placed on high rise dwellings
because of lifts, wind pressure, thermal stratification, solar gains and
maintenance inputs.

Having said all this, the integration of renewables - sometimes in spectacular

fashion, can teach useful lessons about the use of this type of technology in
our existing buildings, and breakthroughs can be made.

These projects go ahead for reasons of status, architectural experiment and

land pressure. What they bring us may be folly, but the level of investment in
research and development is important in informing the work that is done on
more modest projects.

Case :
The Bahrein Trade Centre (left )has three 29 metre
diameter integrated wind turbines producing 1.3
GWh electricity per year.

The Burj al-Taqa in Dubai has a 200 foot vertical

axis wind turbine and 244,000 square feet of linked
solar panels.

Figure 1 The Bahrein Trade Centre (eso-news)

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3.1. Understanding High
Rise Buildings -
History and
This section looks at the development of the residential tower
block in the UK to put it into its historical and architectural

It is included in order to explain and examine the philosophy and

quality of the original concepts for high rise dwellings, and to
reach round some of the current stereotypical views of them.

Figure 2: The Modern tower block

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To understand the development of the tower block requires the study of

architecture (Modernism, Gropius, Le Corbusier and the Chicago School),
technological developments in building materials, and the politics and
sociology of post war Britain.

It is a common misconception to think of flats as a 20th century invention. Flats

were commonplace in 19th century cities.

“Tenements had existed for centuries. Four to six storey blocks had been the
predominant urban form of housing form the middle of the 19th century.”
(Glendenning and Muthesius 1993 p 24)

However, although people have long been familiar with living in low rise flats, it
is true that the high and medium rise blocks that are so much a feature of our
urban landscape today, are largely a product of the special conditions of the
mid 20th century.

Architecture and Technology

High rise blocks were an expression of Modernism, which arose, in large part,
as a reaction against the perceived over decoration of Art Nouveau and Deco,
and the decadence of the Dada and Surrealist movements of the early part of
the 20th century.

‘Modern’ architecture rejected the past as a source of inspiration and

embraced new materials and technology as source of design inspiration. It
was an expression of design by function and material capacity rather than by
visual expression and an attraction to detail and ornamentation.

Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Mies Van der Rohe were leading pioneers of
Modernist architecture and they defined the philosophy behind the Modernist
dream of a better world for all.

These were people of intellect and ambition who were trying to define a vision
of architecture in which buildings worked for people. They felt able to rise
above the limitations of earlier architecture by the freedom afforded to them by
the availability of the new materials of steel and concrete.

In 1921 Le Corbusier described a house as “a machine for living in”, that

should have.... :

“ the purity of form of a well designed machine”.(From Here to Modernity)

The aspiration for good lighting was a prime driver and as Glendenning and
Muthesius point out ...

James Livingstone 10
“ An increase in height will always, for a given density of population, improve
lighting conditions” (Glendenning and Muthesius 1993 p53)

Walter Gropius vocalised the desire to move away from the darkness and
squalor of what were now seen as primitive Victorian slums:

“ ... all dwellings should command a clear view of the sky over the broad
expanses of grass ... instead of the ground floor windows looking onto blank
walls or onto sunless courtyards” (Glendenning and Muthesius 1993 p45) .

In the 1920’s Le Corbusier developed the ‘Dom-ino’ system. This together with
the ‘Chicago frame’ gave rise to two of the most important ideas in modernist
architecture. The birth of the framed building led to a freedom of design by
allowing a design separation of the floor plan and elevation, from the structure.
It also introduced mass, and off site production into building.

One of the most important driving concepts of this architecture was one of
creating ‘communities in the sky’ and this aspiration led to the predominant
pre-war high rise form – the slab type blocks often known as Zeilenbon blocks.
These were characterised by being low to medium rise and were generally
associated with deck/ balcony access.

The ultimate expression of this is the

‘Unite d’habitation’ – or the Marseille
Building1. This building includes a
shopping centre on seventh floor and
community recreational space on the

“1600 people form a manageably sized

community that gives the benefits of both
individual privacy and collective
participation.” (Jencks 2000 p258)

This continues to be a very successful

building, with high demand.

Figure 3 : Unite D’habitation ( Photograph:Great buildings on line’)

Slab blocks however, had the disadvantage, when built close together, of
shading each other and provided only relatively low density environments.

The aspiration for height was driven partly by the need to achieve higher
densities, but also (as is still seen today) by the architect’s ambition to create
architecturally imposing buildings. (This aspiration was perhaps the first to
compromise the design premise of building serving the occupant).

Le Corbusier. Completed 1954

James Livingstone 11
This led to the development of the ‘point’ block, early examples of which were
generally built on green field sites such as those at Roehampton in London.

Along side this architectural and social ambition, were the development of
structural engineering principles, the understanding of reinforced concrete and
the rapid development of industrial techniques for mass production.

In addition, the concept of the ‘U’ Value was introduced at this time and was
first seen in the Housing Manual of 1944. According to Glendenning and

“.. the thermal properties of all kinds of external walls were minutely
investigated...” (Glendenning and Muthesius 1993 p80)

Politics and Social Conditions

It is easy to forget that up until the 1950s only a very small proportion of
housing had even the most basic facilities. Running water was often at the end
of the road and ‘in house’ bathrooms, electricity and heating were unusual.

By 1945 the social fabric of society had been overwhelmed by two world wars
which had diverted all investment from domestic infrastructure. The buildings
that had survived the war were worn out and in a poor state of repair.

Housing became the most important public and political expression of

rebuilding the country after the Second World War. ‘Homes fit for heroes’
became an important banner for the post war labour government which, in the
end committed itself to achieving by :

“ brute force house building” (Glendenning and Muthesius 1993 p312)

Town planning became an important area of study and debate. In 1944, the
Greater London Plan looked back at inter-war housing planning with dismay:

“ London indeed can take no pride in the bulk of the 600,000 houses that were
built on her ever expanding outskirts between the wars. What would our
feelings be if were thought that the scheme of decentralisation proposed in
this plan were destined to impose on the still vacant land a mass of similar
houses similarly disposed, during the next decade? Would a repetition of
London’s sprawl be something that we should want to show our allies as our
contribution to remaking the world?”
(The Greater London Plan 1944: Sect 476 – 490)

Whether to build flats or houses was thus the subject of much heated debate.
In the end however, rebuilding more small houses was felt to be tantamount to
rebuilding the slums they were trying to replace.

The provision of facilities was also thought about in great detail. Despite what
might appear inadequate provision now, these new housing units were a huge
improvement in terms of space and ‘basic’ facilities over those that they

James Livingstone 12
replaced. Each member of a family had a room of their own, and by the early
1960’s there was more or less universal application of the ‘Parker Morris ‘
standards which defined minimum provision for spaces for new dwellings.
Where individual provision was not thought to be feasible, communal laundries
and drying areas played well to the idea of creating those ‘communities in the

And people at the time appear to have been very happy with their new homes:

“ Small wonder Mrs Gameroll likes her flat. When the rival claims for flat
versus house arise for discussion she will no doubt agree that here at Spa
Green the Finsbury Borough Council have demonstrated to the full the many
advantages ,- individual and communal – among which she includes her
neighbours . “The people here are all so nice” she says.
(Concrete Today 1951)

Reality sets in

“The optimism of Le Corbusier, Lubetkin, and Modernism's early champions,

the belief that their new architecture would contribute to a better world for all,
and the optimism of the post war welfare state which had striven to make that
vision real, were all swept away in a torrent of bad buildings and economic
crisis. The modernist dream, it seemed, was dead” (From Here to Modernity).

Between 1945 and 1969 4 million public sector dwellings were constructed
and as the numbers of homes required continued to increase through the
1950’s and1960’s several things happened.

Table 1 Post war Multi-storey Approvals and Starts

Date Number
Pre 1948 3212
1948 –1952 14170
1953-1957 31453
1958- 1962 77054
1963-1967 20047
1968-1978 65623
1972 0n 11119
Total 403108 flats 6544 blocks
(Glendenning and Muthesius 1993 Appendix )

The quantity of houses built became more important than quality. As a result,
some of the in situ construction was done on the cheap. The shortcuts tended
to be in the provision of services and communal areas, and this resulted in
problems with safety, lighting and landscaping.

The pressure to build meant that incentives were introduced to production.

The 1956 Housing Act, for example, incentivised high rise building, regardless
of location and design, by paying a premium to councils for building blocks
higher than five storeys.

James Livingstone 13
Land shortages, labour shortages and materials shortages all encouraged a
move towards high density system built housing.

The ability to build higher drove the architects and engineers to do just that.
Technical and architectural challenges therefore sometimes overwhelmed
good design.

Eventually high rise residential work ceased to be of interest to avant-garde

architects and design became the responsibility of the municipal architect, and,
increasingly of the contractor. The construction process was thereby
industrialised and individual design was replaced by ‘off the peg’ systems

By the early sixties, the volume of building work had reached unmanageable
proportions, resulting in labour shortages, over powerful unions, and
allegations of impropriety over contract awards in Local Authorities.

Different cities embraced different methods in different ways according to

taste, the extent of war damage, and the influence of individual builders in an
area. The really big medium rise slab developments were built in Scotland and
Sheffield with estates such as Sighthill, Red Road, Ardlew and Park Hill,
whereas Midlands’ cities like Birmingham embraced the system built point
block with greater enthusiasm.

The ideals of ‘Modern’ architecture were thus compromised by the speed and
urgency of the house building boom, which at its peak in 1965, reached
383,000 - about twice what it is today!

Demise and Rejection

As early as 1953, Alison and Peter Smithson were expressing doubts about
the social effects of modernist domestic architecture. They wrote...

"The short narrow street of the slum succeeds where spacious redevelopment
frequently fails." (From Here to Modernity).

... and they responded by designing their own version of modernism with a
conscious reversion to the early ideals of Le Corbusier and Gropius, and a
more neighbourly reinterpretation of these ideals. Denys Lasdun did likewise.

Sheffield’s Park Hill estate was designed with these ideals and concerns in
mind too, but this was not immune from the social problems that were
beginning to surface in these modern developments.

Although it was the architecture that took the blame, this was not principally a
failure of design. It was a failure resulting from the corruption of the design by
mass market interpretation, from the break up of communities, and perhaps,
above all, from the under investment in management of these estates.

James Livingstone 14
Despite that, by the early 1960’s the level of dissatisfaction with modern
estates had generated so much criticism that Modernism as an architectural
philosophy was effectively dead, and generally agreed to be a failure.

The final nail in the coffin of Modernism was driven home on the 16th May
1968, when Mrs Ivy Hodge struck a match in her kitchen and blew out the side
of her 18th storey flat resulting in the collapse of one end of Ronan Point in
East London.

“It was modern architecture's Titanic, and spelled the end of the high-rise as a
viable solution to the post-war housing crisis as well as plunging modern
architecture and the architectural profession to a low level of public esteem”.
(From Here to Modernity).

The result of this was to question the very structural integrity of high rise
blocks, and encourage the anti Modernist lobby.

However, although the systematic dismantling of Ronan Point revealed some

appalling workmanship in its assembly, subsequent survey of similar blocks
did not reveal any inherent structural problems, and there are no examples of
major failures anywhere else among tower blocks in this country.

Management failures however, were often presented as evidence that the

structure of the blocks were inherently defective, and this reputation has
largely remained, giving ‘justice’ to building owners wanting to hide their
failure to manage tower blocks behind a programme of demolition and
replacement. This is looked at in greater detail later in this section.

The net result of this about turn on high rise living has been the systematic
destruction of large numbers of tower blocks, and many cities have seen the
ritual explosive demolition of the majority of them.

The emotive headlines of the Birmingham Mail on March 19th 2007 - as they
reported the demolition of Hamilton House, go a long way to illustrate the
feelings, and ingrained preconceptions about high rise living that prevail even
now in some quarters.

“ eyesore tower block bites the dust”

The article continues with:

” The demolition of the 24-storey building forms part of a multi-million pound

regeneration project to bring council housing up to standard by 2010. ...... It
was the 58th tower block removed by the council and the 25th to be downed
by explosives. ...... Cabinet member for neighbourhoods Councillor Mahboob
Hussein said: "I'm sure residents are delighted to see this tower block

James Livingstone 15

Not all high rise blocks were problematic however. In Aberdeen they
established a management and allocations model that worked, and they
continued to build high rise until the mid 1980s.

And there are many signs now of a reappraisal of high rise blocks as housing
and land shortages necessitate a rethink.

A lot of the worst blocks are gone, and although there is still a significant
backlog of repairs in social housing, a lot of investment has been made into
security and other environmental improvements. Landlords have also learned
how to manage high modern estates better by improving security, encouraging
tenants associations, and ensuring common areas are kept clean, safe and
well lit.

The ‘Right To Buy’ has created mixed tenure blocks, and in some cases entire
blocks have been taken over by private developers, turning what were once
considered ‘squalid council flats’ into luxury apartments for young executives.
Even some blocks that remain in our social housing stock such as Trellick
Tower in West London have apparently been redeemed, by a combination of
good management by landlords and resident involvement. Trellick Tower is
now one of London’s fashionable addresses.


This section concludes that Modern architecture was the product

of a high minded and virtuous ideal that was corrupted in a mad
rush to build.

The Modernist movement behind the development of the high rise

block was a principled one in which the best examples produced
(such as the Unite d’habitation) are still cherished and continue to
work well.

It also concludes that high rise housing is not inherently bad, that
public perception is perhaps coloured by the inability of social
landlords to manage their new responsibilities, and that the
beginnings of a long overdue reappraisal of the qualities of high
density high rise living is now starting.

James Livingstone 16
3.2. Understanding
High Rise Buildings -
3.2 looks at the way tower blocks were built and what construction
characteristics they consequently have. This informs later
discussions about condition, comfort and ‘hard to treat’ homes.
Discussion concentrates on the walls, windows and a brief
description of the heating to maintain focus on the thermal and
environmental issues that are the focus of this work. Roof and
ground constructions are ignored as being of no special relevance
to the discussion about tower blocks.

Figure 4 : Expressions of Modern frame construction (via .Glendenning and


James Livingstone 17

Materials development and structural science largely determine the structural

evolution of the tower block.

The ‘Chicago frame’ and pre-war tower block design in the UK were
predominantly steel framed, with conventional in-fill panels of brick.
Traditional brickwork was also occasionally used at this time, up to about
eleven storeys in height.

Significant improvements in reinforced concrete technology just after the

Second World war encouraged the development of cast in situ, and pre-cast
concrete buildings. In the early 1950’s reinforced concrete frames with in-fill
panels predominated , later giving way to frame construction including
‘crosswall’, ‘egg box’ and ‘box frames’.

At the same time, the concept of cladding came into its own. High rise
buildings place special demands on their exposed components, so research
was done into developing materials to incorporate qualities of weatherproofing,
good looks, durability and insulation. Materials such as steel, aluminium,
asbestos, wood, concrete and later, plastics were all developed in different
forms that would take on these qualities.

Exact construction information is hard to come by and is not often available

from design details, as a lot of high rise blocks were built under ‘design and
build’ contracts and details were never recorded. A lot of the information here
is obtained from pre refurbishment survey details.

Four commonly defined types

The large majority of the 6544 buildings this thesis concerns itself with were
built between 1953 and 1978. During this period there were four main types of
high rise construction built. Within these four main types there are variations
but essentially this is it:

Column and Beam,

Box Frame,
’No Fines’ Concrete
Large Panel system.(LPS)

Column and Beam Construction

In this construction type, a framework of reinforced concrete columns and

beams are cast in situ. The floors are cast in situ concrete on the framework,
the internal walls are generally constructed of lightweight aggregate blocks or
brickwork, and the external panels between the frame members are usually
brick cavity walls.

James Livingstone 18
Figure 5: Column and Beam Construction

Aylmer Tower in Norwich is an example of a column

and Beam type construction with brick in- fill panels.
Post and beams, which are cast first, can be seen
clearly in the photograph
(Photograph : Author )

Box Frame Construction

Box frame construction involves the in situ casting of reinforced concrete

walls, which support the floor above. External walls are generally not load
bearing and are usually of cavity brick construction or pre-cast concrete
sections lifted into place.

Various proprietary box frame methods are recorded by the BRE (Glick and
Reeves 1996) such as Laidlaw-Thornton and MWM.

Figure 6: Butterfield Court in Dudley is an example

of Box frame construction
(Photograph : Skyscraper city )

No Fines Concrete Construction

‘No fines’ concrete is a concrete with a smaller proportion of sand than is usual
in concrete. This results in a lightweight concrete with higher insulation values.
It was widely used for housing in all forms, particularly by Wimpey.

In high rise blocks it was sometimes combined with the post and beam
system, in order to reduce the load bearing on the ‘no fines’ concrete.

Floors were cast in situ high density concrete. External walls were generally
drylined internally and pebble dashed externally. (Williams and Ward 1991)

James Livingstone 19
Figure 7: Normandie Tower in Norwich is a Wimpey
‘No fines’ concrete block
(Photograph : Author )

Large Panel System (LPS) Construction

Large Panel Systems were a late development in the construction of high rise
blocks, but soon became the most common, owing to the fact that the panels
were factory constructed, allowing for quick weather proof assembly on site.
Reinforced concrete storey height panels for internal, external and spine walls
make up the buildings, with the central services spine often being cast in situ,
to provide a degree of rigidity to the structure.

Figure 8: Stephenson Tower in Birmingham is an

example of LPS construction
(Photograph : Skyscraper city )

Camus, Bison Wall frame and Taylor Woodrow Anglian (Larsen Neilson), were
perhaps the most widely applied systems, in which each floor was supported
by the load bearing walls directly beneath it. The wall and floor system fitted
together in slots with overlaps on the horizontal, and straight joints on the
vertical. These were bolted together and filled with dry pack mortar to secure
the connections. (BRE 1985)

James Livingstone 20
Thermal Characteristics.
Although this thesis looks briefly in the next section at the repair problems
these constructions have in order to assess their longevity, the primary interest
here is in the thermal characteristics of these blocks.

There is scant good information on exactly how these blocks are constructed,
but certain conclusions can be drawn from first hand observation (see Chapter 6,
Case Studies) and from the available literature .


For benchmarking and comparison purposes some standard wall
constructions their U values are recorded in Table 2 below.

Table 2 :Typical U values for wall constructions1

Wall Construction ( all plastered internally) Typical U Value

225mm solid brick ( e.g for Terraced house or cottage) 2.18 Wm2K
300mm solid slate wall 2.86 Wm2K
Typical brick cavity wall with no insulation 1.06 Wm2K
Typical brick cavity wall with 50mm fibreglass insulation 0.47Wm2K
2006 Building Regulations ( min elemental) standard Cavity 0.35 Wm2K
1 Calculated using Build Desk Programme

External wall types that predominate in the four types of high rise blocks are:

Sandwich walls
Cavity walls
Solid concrete walls
These are examined individually in the following sections.

Sandwich Walls
The best available sandwich wall construction details are from the BRE study
of Bison Wall Frame construction (Hotchkiss and Edwards 1998)

Table 3 : Bison Wall external wall construction

Bison Wall frame
Pre-cast reinforced concrete load bearing storey height sandwich panel comprising:
6 inch inner leaf
1 inch polystyrene
bitumen felt
3 inch outer concrete leaf or 4 ½ brick

James Livingstone 21
Somewhat surprisingly the Scottish MBA certificate (quoted by Hotchkiss and
Edwards) claims a U value of 0.17 W/m2K for these walls. The calculation
done for this thesis looks rather different:

Table 4: Bison Wall thermal characteristics results

Bison Wall frame Conductivity Thickness

W/(mK) mm
Inner surface 0.13 n/a
Gypsum plaster 0.51 10
High density reinforced concrete inner leaf 2.3 150
Expanded polystyrene 0.04 25
bitumen felt 0.23 5
High density reinforced concrete outer leaf or 4 ½ brick 2.3 (0.8) 75 (114)
Outside wall surface 0.06
Total Thickness 265 (292)
U Value 1 with concrete outer leaf 1.08 Wm2K
U Value with brick outer leaf 0.93 Wm2K
1 Conductivity from Cibse and ‘Build Desk’. U values calculated using Build Desk 3.2 1

The Department of the Environment (DOE) Good Practise Case Study 121
records 4 variations for this type of block with different insulation thickness:
(DOE 1996)

Table 5 : Recorded Insulation thickness for LPS type blocks

Block Type Insulation Thickness

Northwood Tower Waltham Forest Type not specified 25mm polystyrene

(1971) (21 storey)
Rosemount street Glasgow (early Reema Type 40mm polystyrene
1970’s) (12 storey)
Rosset House Hull Yorkshire development 20mm polystyrene
Group type (6 storey)
Chertsey Crescent (1966) Wates type Block 25mm polystyrene
(11 storey)

The calculation in Table 4 includes an insulation thickness of 25mm.

Increasing the level of insulation to 40mm in this type of sandwich wall
construction improves the U value to 0.8 Wm2K

It is not the purpose of this thesis to look at condensation risk in any detail, but, it is
interesting to note that the risk of interstitial condensation in this type of sandwich
construction is considered high by the Build Desk programme used to calculate the U
Values. It is surprising that the bitumen felt layer in this construction is outside the insulation
layer. It is there presumably to prevent the ingress of moisture from the air. There is no use
of a vapour barrier on the inside of the insulation layer. It may be that the concrete is
sufficiently dense to act as one.

James Livingstone 22
Cavity Walls: (Box frame and Column and beam systems)

Table 6 below illustrates the ‘Build Desk’ calculations for the U values typical
cavity wall constructions found in high rise blocks.

Table 6: Cavity Wall Thermal Characteristics

Cavity walls Conductivity Thickness

W/(mK) mm
Inner surface 0.13 n/a
Gypsum plaster 0.51 5
Sand and Cement Render 1 12
Aerated Block 0.227 100
Cavity with 50mm mineral wool insulation ( or none ) 0.05 50
4 ½ brick external skin 0.8 114
Outside wall surface 0.06 n/a
U Value with insulation 0.51 Wm2K
U Value without insulation 1.06 Wm2K

Concrete Walls:

Table 7 below illustrates the Build Desk’ calculations for the U values typical
no fines concrete constructions found in high rise blocks.

Table 7: ‘No fines’ Concrete Thermal Characteristics

No fines concrete Conductivity Thickness

W/(mK) mm
Inner surface 0.13 n/a
Gypsum plaster 0.51 5
Plasterboard 1 12
50mm mineral wool insulation ( or 25mm cork) 0.05 50
No fines concrete 1.13 300
Outside wall surface 0.06 n/a
U Value with mineral wool insulation 0.57 Wm2K
U Value with cork insulation 0.91 Wm2K

Thermal Bridging

It is important not to overlook the effects of thermal bridging on the overall

thermal efficiency of high rise walls.

Table 8 : Typical thermal bridging components

Construction type Thermal Bridging elements

Typical Column and Beam Floors , columns, beams and window reveals
Typical Box frame Floors, window reveals
Typical LPS Floors window reveals
Typical Wimpey no fines Columns , floors , window reveals

James Livingstone 23
As an example of this, the U value for a concrete column (300mm square) will
be 3.5 Wm2K. Typically, this would be adjacent to the cavity wall or the
sandwich type LPS system wall with U values of 0.51 Wm2K and 0.93 Wm2K
respectively. Thermal bridging therefore brings down the overall U value of the
wall considerably and is likely to induce condensation.

Windows : Types and U values

Original installed widows were, almost without exception, single glazed metal
or wood framed as was the case for most housing types at this time.

The U values for a 2m2 wooden framed window with 4mm single glazing is
4.86 Wm2K.

This compares with the target elemental U Value for windows under 2006
Building Regulations standards of 2 Wm2K.


It is evidenced, particularly in the reports and investigations that followed the

Ronan point tragedy in 1968, that panel bedding and joint sealing especially in
the large panel systems was not done to a very a high standard . This results
in high air infiltration rates and effectively high thermal bridging at these joints.

Other Construction Details

Simplicity of form is significant in this discussion, both for thermal bridging and
for ease of treatment.

Modernism generally spurned decoration, so these high rise blocks are

generally flat and uncomplicated, and services are were usually internalised.

However, they are not simply flat. Balconies and walkways, for example are
common features.

Common areas – buffer zones:

Lifts, staircases and landings, although unheated, provide thermal ‘buffer
zones’ on two sides of most high rise flats.

Overheating is not a problem that is generally associated with these high rise
dwellings, and despite the likelihood of the design creating intolerably warm
conditions at times, there is no empirical evidence to suggest it is a serious
problem at the moment.

James Livingstone 24
This is probably because air infiltration is high and occupants are long

In contemplating a refurbishment, and with the likelihood of a warmer climate,

window shading may be needed. This is considered briefly in later chapters.

Heating of high rise blocks varies considerably, but two main factors seem to
have influenced the choices at the time of construction and when
refurbishment options are considered

District heating was often installed. This provides efficiencies in terms of plant,
installation, running and maintenance costs.

Gas was often overlooked because of the perceived danger of explosion,

particularly after Ronan Point. The predominant form of heating in high rise
was therefore under floor or warm air electric heating, both of which are
relatively inefficient and carbon heavy compared to other heating fuels.

There are four main types of high rise residential construction.
Within the broad definitions of these types, there are many
overlaps and variations.

Because of the way that these high rise blocks were

commissioned, thermal standards were not set, workmanship was
not always good and exact records of construction details were
not often recorded.

U values of walls vary, but there is enough evidence to

demonstrate that insulation was given some consideration in
design and construction.

However, although insulation standards are relatively good

compared with many other contemporary construction types, they
do vary considerably, and thermal bridging through structural
elements appears to have been largely ignored.

District heating was seen to have advantages, but was installed

infrequently compared to less efficient electric flat based central
heating system.

The single glazing is typical of the times.

James Livingstone 25
3.3. Understanding High
Rise Buildings -
This section looks briefly at the structural condition of high rise
residential blocks. It does this to try to establish whether these
blocks are in a good enough condition to merit large-scale
investment in modernisation and energy improvement measures.

It looks at structural condition because information is available to

make broad but pertinent generalisations about it, and because
the structural condition is basic to a building’s longevity.

It does not look at the cosmetic, nor the environment, as these are
too variable and are independent of the construction type. It does
however include a table from the English House Condition Survey,
which estimates the financial costs of improvements of different
house types for Decent Homes purposes. This is included
because, although Decent Homes is in large part about kitchen
and bathroom improvements, it does also include assessments of
costs of basic repairs and some thermal improvements.1

Figure 9: The Collapse of Ronan Point ( Photograph BBC)

See glossary for Decent Homes definitions

James Livingstone 26
Structural instability
Ronan Point opened the debate about workmanship, and structural condition
so it is here that the appraisal will start.

There is a lot of analysis of the incident. Rouse and Delatte (2003) is the
primary resource drawn on here.

When Ivy Hodge lit the match that caused the explosion in her 18th storey flat,
the corner walls were knocked outwards by the force of the blast.

These walls were the only bearing for the walls above. As a result of their
collapse, the floors above gave way, loading floor eighteen, which then set off
a chain reaction loading on all the floors below which collapsed like a set of
dominoes down to ground floor level.

In later analysis, three key problems were identified. Firstly, there was the fact
that the Larsen-Neilson design had been intended for blocks of a maximum of
six storeys. Ronan Point was 21 storeys high.
Secondly, there had been no redundancy built into the design. In other words,
if a failure occurred in any key component, there were no alternative load
paths to support the structure above.
Thirdly, and this was not fully revealed until some 16 years later when Ronan
Point was systematically demolished by the architect Sam Webb, was the
issue of bad workmanship. Sam Webb:

“I knew we were going to find bad workmanship – what surprised me was the
sheer scale of it. Not a single joint was correct. Fixing straps were
unattached: levelling nuts were not wound down, causing a significant loading
to be transmitted via the bolts: panels were placed on bolts instead of mortar.
But the biggest shock of all was the crucial H-2 load-bearing joints between
floor and wall panels. Some of the joints had less than fifty percent of the
mortar specified.” (Wearne, 2000).

Ronan Point itself was repaired and eventually with its eight ‘ sister ‘ blocks
demolished sixteen years later. In the immediate aftermath of the incident
reinforcement work was done to these blocks and to blocks of similar design
across the world.

Much criticism was rightly levelled at what had preceded, and this led to
widespread changes in Building Standards Regulations.

Although Ronan Point blighted the reputation of high rise dwellings, it remains
the only example of structural failure of a high rise residential building, and in
their conclusions to their investigation into the incident the BRE concluded that
there has been ... :

“... no major failure of an LPS building in the United Kingdom since the
appraisal and strengthening of LPS buildings was carried out following the
collapse at Ronan Point in 1968.” (BRE 1985)

James Livingstone 27
Concrete Defects

Carbonation is a chemical process that takes place in the concrete, resulting
from atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2) getting into it, causing a reduction in
the alkalinity of the concrete and corrosion in the reinforcing bars (rebars) and
ultimately, spalling of the concrete. Problems are exacerbated if concrete
cover levels over the rebars are inadequate.(Davis Langdon and Everest 2002; Ciria

Chlorides from salt and from chemicals added to speed the curing of concrete
in cold weather can result in corrosion damage to rebars and spalling of

Inadequate cover on rebars exacerbates the above problems and can lead to
spalling due to water penetration alone.

Concrete delamination
Delamination of concrete sandwich panels occasionally happens, as does the
separation of cavity walls where wall tie failure occurs.

Joint failure
Cracking of joints in cast in-situ concrete sometimes occurs where the
concrete has not been given enough time to cure.

Extent of Concrete Problems

Comprehensive studies of structural defects in high rise blocks were
undertaken by the Building Research Establishment in 1987 and 1996.
Further information comes from CIRIA.(1992)

Concrete spalling is a common and widespread problem, and although the

BRE report that........

“Some cast-in-situ high-rise concrete buildings examined by BRE were in

excellent condition, demonstrating that it is possible to achieve good durability
with low maintenance costs by means of adequate quality control of materials
and construction and the application of protective coatings in service.” (Glick
and Reeves 1996)

they also state that......

“Corrosion related defects were present in both the cast-in-situ elements and
the pre-cast components in the majority of buildings examined and in some
cases had required extensive concrete repairs.”

James Livingstone 28
It is apparent that concrete condition varies a lot between sites, but there are
no recorded cases yet of the concrete being in any sense ‘beyond repair’:

“Some buildings were found to be virtually defect free and to have suffered
only minimal deterioration whilst others of similar age and design were in need
of extensive repair. In the majority of buildings inspected there were at least
one or two places where concrete cracking or spalling had occurred.

The standard and consistency of workmanship was found to differ

considerably between buildings of the same form of construction, both on the
same site and on different sites. However the standard of workmanship and
construction practice was found to be reasonably consistent throughout
individual buildings.

The quality of the pre-cast components was in line with observations of other
pre-cast work. In general, serious deterioration had not arisen so far. (Glick and
Reeves 1996)

In 1987, although they recommended the introduction of log books and annual
inspection regimes, the BRE had no serious concerns about the structural
integrity of high rise residential buildings:

“The BRE has found no LPS building showing structural distress sufficient to
give concern for the safety of people, not has it received any reports of any
LPS building failing to sustain the loads experienced in service – including fire
loads” (Currie et al 1987)

Nevertheless, concrete repairs will be in needed on all high rise blocks built in
the sixties and earlier, and complex access equipment is needed to carry out
the work.

It is this requirement that demands questions about whether the repairs are
worth doing, and if the answer is yes, then what else should be done whilst the
access equipment is in place.

Weather tightness
Vertical joints between panels seem to be the main point of weakness for
weather tightness. These were generally neoprene, and not of the standard
that would be used today. With high levels of exposure, demands on materials
are great and many of these neoprene strips are now brittle and have
separated from the structure, allowing the ingress of wind driven rain.

Horizontal joints were usually of ‘dri-pack’ cement and have generally

performed better - where they were properly installed.

Patch repairs, involving cutting out and replacement of affected concrete using
proprietary mortars, are the solution to spalling caused by lack of cover,
chlorides, and carbonation.

James Livingstone 29
In addition, preventative measures such as the use of anti carbonation paints
and desalination techniques for chloride problems should be applied.

In cases of delamination, wall ties and resin grouts can be used to stabilise

For weather tightness, neoprene strips can be replaced with modern


Over cladding adds further protection.


Where insulation and aesthetics are also invested in, over cladding is the
obvious solution.

Over cladding may be made from:

• Render
• Pressed metal , aluminium , steel , galvanised, plastic coated or stainless,
often in ‘sandwich’ form with insulation
• Glass
• Glass reinforced plastic.

Secondary data on costs for this type of work is hard to obtain, and does not
bear easy comparison. However the following table is indicative of the
amounts involved:

Table 9 Indicative estimates for external repair costs to high rise blocks
Source Work as described Cost pro rata Cost for typical 16
storey block c
Davis Langdon and Render application £90.00 / sm £294,000
Everest a including insulation
(2000) Rain screen cladding £210.00 /sm £685,000
including insulation
Concrete repairs and £24 /sm £52,240
Access : item £70,000 £70,000

Total external works £1,031,240

Sustaining Towers ‘Permarock’ (GRC insulated £100/ sm £326,500
cladding) d
Aluminium insulated
cladding d Ave £220/ sm £718,000

a: Social Housing Dec 2002

b: Sustaining Towers Website
c: Figure calculated using dimensions of Normandie Tower, Norwich : 3265m
d: It is not clear whether this includes access equipment

James Livingstone 30
The case studies in chapter six include some actual project costs.

Repair Costs - Comparative

The following table from the English House Condition Survey2 is included
because it is the only source of comparative repair costs by house type that is

It would be wrong to make too much of this information, because it is a an

analysis for Decent Homes purposes. The criteria for Decent Homes are a bit
obscure (see glossary) and the quality of the data questionable. Nevertheless,
this is the official position, so it is interesting to note that according to this, high
rise flats of this type have the third lowest average repair costs.

Table 10: non fail those average average average average all
Estimated decent thermal failing floor SAP (mean) property dwelling
Costs for homes comfort fitness, area rating repair value s
only repair (m2) costs in the
or (£/m2) 000s group
moderni ('000s)
Improvem sation
ents % in
this group
that are:

small 33.7 18.4 15.3 58 54 52 £115 2,629
medium/la 29.8 15.1 14.7 92 53 46 £158 3,494
semi- 27.1 15.4 11.7 87 50 47 £161 6,127
detached 18.2 11.7 6.5 136 50 25 £298 3,631
bungalow 18.4 11.7 6.6 72 47 48 £163 2,072

converted 44.8 17.3 27.5 60 43 71 £158 654

purpose 45.7 33.0 12.7 56 62 30 £120 2,677
built flat,
low rise
purpose 51.5 31.7 19.8 63 52 39 £164 328
built flat,
high rise

James Livingstone 31
There are strong suggestions that the explosion at Ronan Point,
the anti modernist sentiments of the late 1960’s and the
mismanagement of high rise estates, have contributed to a
representation of the structural condition of high rise blocks as

The BRE generally found however that:

“Examples of cast-in-situ high-rise concrete housing built

for local authorities between the early 1950's and early
1970's examined by BRE, and reported on by local
authorities or their consultants, were found to be
structurally sound. No cases of structural inadequacy of
concrete frames or cross walls were found during the

Concrete repairs, if not already done, are overdue on high rise

blocks of this era.

It is the access equipment that is the really expensive part of these

repairs, and it is therefore at this time, that the opportunity should
be taken to invest in other improvements to the blocks.

According to the available data repair costs of high rise flats are in
fact lower than for most other types.

James Livingstone 32
4. Environmental, Social
and Legislative Issues
This section looks at the issues which frame this thesis. It looks at
why priorities in decision making about housing, need to shift
towards those that serve the environmental agenda.

It does this to examine whether debates about demolition, new

build and refurbishment numbers should proceed with greater

Climate Change
There is no need to add to words of the IPCC draft fourth assessment report of
17th November 2007:

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from

observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures,
widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level”

“Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many
natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly
temperature increases.”

“Most of the observed increase in globally-averaged temperatures since the

mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic
GHG concentrations” (IPCC 2007)

Policy implications for climate change are likely to be carbon pricing and
rationing, resulting in effect, in a rationing of the right to burn fossil fuels.

Demand and Supply for fossil fuels

Demand for fossil fuels continues to increase as developing nations world go
through their own industrial revolutions, and as the western world demands
greater comfort levels.

James Livingstone 33
Peak Oil
This term is used here in its most generic sense to mean the reduction in the
world’s ability to produce fossil fuels. The ‘peak’ date for different fuels and
from different thinkers varies, but there is more or less universal agreement
that fossil fuels will become progressively harder to extract and that
consequently, prices will increase.

Existing targets and legislative framework

The Climate Change Bill of 2003 put targets firmly on the UK agenda.

“Our ambition is for the world’s developed economies to cut emissions of

greenhouse gases by 60% by around 2050. We therefore accept the Royal
Commission on Environmental Pollution’s (RCEP’s) recommendation that the
UK should put itself on a path towards a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions
of some 60% from current levels by about 2050.”( DTI 2003)

This target is now widely seen as not sufficiently ambitious.

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive drives the legislative

framework for energy reduction in buildings in Europe. This is primarily
directed at new build and is interpreted in the UK by the Building Regulations,
the Code for Sustainable Homes, and energy labelling.

Current Policy towards existing buildings

Existing buildings are still much neglected in the drive towards energy

A brief description of the policy measures below helps to demonstrate the

paucity of support (and consequent motivation of building owners) in this area.

• Funding for research on strategy and method, is directed towards a

number of organisations including the Building Research Establishment, The
Environmental Change Institute, The Energy Savings Trust, Tarbase, The
Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes, and further academic institutions
and commercial organisations.

• Energy labelling for housing is being introduced on the back of the Home
Information Pack.

• The Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC) requires energy suppliers to

meet energy efficiency targets. They do this by a contributing to a combination
of measures, including low energy lighting schemes, insulation, efficient
appliance schemes, and heating schemes.
It is ironic that at the same time they are driven by responsibility to their
shareholder to increase the sale of electricity. The EEC is changing to a

James Livingstone 34
Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) in 2008 to include support for
micro generation. Both the EEC and CERT are aimed primarily at low income

The Decent Homes Programme and Warm Front incentivise improvements in

energy efficiency in the rented sector. Warm Front has been effective in
subsidising cavity wall and roof insulation but Decent Homes, which is the
primary driver behind refurbishment of social housing stock, sets thermal
comfort standards too low, and is insufficiently funded to allow much
discretionary spending on insulation measures.

The Home Energy Conservation Act (HECA) 1995 gave responsibilities to

Local Authorities to report on energy efficiency measures taken for housing in
their areas, and consequently to devise targets for improvement. It is hard to
tell exactly how successful this has been as the reporting measures are

Support is largely directed towards building owners, and whilst tenants are the
ones who benefit there is little incentive for landlords to invest in fuel efficiency

In the later section on ‘Hard to Treat Homes’ it is shown that government

strategy in this area has traditionally been driven by fuel poverty issues and
not by the need to cut fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions.

Fuel poverty continues to be an issue and with the cost of fuel increasing it will
become worse. Fuel poverty is, in part, alleviated by EEC initiatives, but
probably more so by direct subsidy to the fuel poor, such as pensioners winter
fuel payments

Future Energy Strategy for Existing Buildings

“The domestic sector is a critical area to focus on. It consumes 28% of all
energy generated and is responsible for 27% of UK CO2 emissions.” (ECI

Within the Buildings Sector space heating accounts for the largest proportion
of total use.

Table 11: Total UK domestic energy consumption by end use (DCLG 2007)
2002(TWH) 2002 (%)
Space heating 337 61
Hot water 130 23
Lights & Appliances 72.5 13
Cooking 15.1 3
Total 554 100

James Livingstone 35
There is a significant growth in consumption in domestic energy use in all
sectors despite improvements in efficiency and Building regulations:

Table 12: Growth in Total UK domestic energy consumption by end use (DTI,
(PJ) 1990 2002 Growth Growth %
Space heating 990 1213 223 12.3
Hot water 422 467 45 11.1
Lights & Appliances 228 261 33 11.4
Cooking 63.3 54.4 -8.9 -8.59
Total 1703 1995 292 17.1

The implications for housing of the 60% reduction target in the Climate
Change Bill of 2003 has been interpreted best for buildings by the ‘40%
House’ research carried out by the Environmental Change Institute. (ECI 2003)

In aspiring to a ‘zero carbon’ UK, Zero Carbon Britain includes a more

challenging figure of 57% reduction in domestic demand for heat by 2027.
(Helweg-Larsen et al 2007)

Both the ECI and ZCB identify the need for a dramatic increase in both
refurbishment, and in demolition and new build.

At present, just 20,000 dwellings per year are being demolished and replaced
(0.08%of the stock) and only 180,000 more are being built. (Helweg-Larsen et al
2007), this despite the ambitions of the government’s own advice to build more
than 200,000 per year just to meet the needs of the market. (Barker 2004)

Both the 40% house and ZCB models require a large increase in investment
in energy efficient refurbishment. The 40% house proposes cuts in average
space heating demand for existing homes from 14,600 kWh p.a. now to 9,000
kWh p.a. in 2050 and ZCB aspires to cuts in space heating in refurbished
homes down to 6000 kWh p.a.

Demolish or Refurbish?
Confronting the issue of energy efficiency in buildings means addressing key
decisions about which properties to demolish and rebuild, and which to

Historically, demolition has been fairly widely spread across building types, but
largely determined by social and economic issues rather than technical and
environmental ones.

It is the contention of many that energy efficiency should replace social issues
as the main criteria in deciding where to demolish, and that demolition and
replacement should be targeted along these lines.

James Livingstone 36
In publication it has become an emotive issue, because the demolition of
homes is seen as wasteful and even as an attack on architectural and social
heritage. Environmentalists are challenged by the idea that demolition and
new build may be more energy efficient and, in fact less wasteful, than
retention of existing stock.

It is true that refurbishment is cheaper in energy terms than demolition and

new build. According to ‘Constructing Excellence’ refurbishing to high
resource efficiency standards has around one tenth of the carbon impact of
new build. (Stock Take 2006)

It has been demonstrated however, that in many cases the energy payback of
the embodied energy lost to demolition is in fact, quite short when replaced by
highly efficient new buildings.

“ Construction and demolition processes all use energy, but the amount is
relatively small compared to the energy consumption in the use of buildings.
When an old, inefficient building is replaced by a new, efficient one, the
embodied energy in the construction process will offset in a few years by the
more efficient building in occupation: thereafter the more efficient building will
represent savings throughout its lifetime “ (Boardman et al 2005 p43)

A study by XCO2 (2002 p40,41) estimates efficiency savings after only 5 years with new
build based on the following figures :
New build designed to run at 1.5 MWh p.a.
Refurbishment to run on 14 MWh pa.
Embodied energy in new build 80MWh
Embodied energy in refurbishment 12MWh.

A study by ECI (ECI 2007App E p 5 ) frames a scenario in which the energy payback is
about 25 years for high efficiency refurbishment (9.5MWhpa) compared with new build

It is important to recognise that these outcomes depend on the new build and
refurbishment energy standards achieved, but even if the running costs were to be 5MWh
and 10 MWh respectively (and even this is ambitious for new build) at the present time,
the payback would only be 10 years.

If this is true, more detailed analysis is needed and building types should be
assessed against the ease of their refurbishment in this way.

There is analysis of a tower block in these terms later in the thesis in chapter

James Livingstone 37

Fuel and the right to emit carbon dioxide is likely to be rationed.

Space heating in housing is one of the most significant sources of

carbon dioxide emissions.

Although little attention is currently paid to the existing housing

stock, increasingly ambitious targets will be set for energy
efficiency in buildings.

Demolition rates must increase to keep up with the demand for


The energy payback times for demolition and rebuild are

surprisingly short compared to refurbishment, but this does
depend wholly on the standards to which the work is done.

The emphasis in the selection of which buildings to demolish and

replace will have to shift towards the most energy inefficient.

James Livingstone 38
5. Classification and

This chapter looks at the concept of ‘Hard to Treat Homes‘ (HTTH)

and the way in which flats in high rise blocks have been included
in this classification. It looks at whether this definition is now
useful and appropriate, or if with our growing appreciation of the
urgency of climate change and energy issues, it is limiting our
understanding of the energy efficiency of buildings.

It then looks at the available national stock data in an effort to see

how high rise dwellings fits into it, in terms of thermal
characteristics and repair costs, and finally to ascertain whether
the label ‘Hard to Treat’ is an appropriate one to apply to high rise

Hard To Treat Homes (HTTH)

‘HTTH’ is an expression widely used by government, and affiliated pressure
groups, both in the understanding of housing energy issues and of fuel
poverty. It is in the latter area that the term has most widely adopted and
arguably, most misunderstood.

The expression ‘Hard to Treat Homes’ (HTTH) is defined by the Energy

Savings Trust as:

‘.... those that cannot accommodate standard energy efficiency measures.

They may be built with solid walls or have no loft space; alternatively they may
not be connected to the gas network. Non-traditional building types for
example, high-rise blocks are also defined as hard to treat.’ (Energy Savings
Trust 2007)

It is quite easy to understand how solid walled houses and those with no loft
can be broadly classified as hard to treat, but to include ‘non traditional’ house
types and high rise blocks, may be a generalisation too far.

James Livingstone 39
The expression is now limiting because:

• It was defined at a time when ambitions for energy efficiency were lower
than they are today. Hard to treat homes therefore usually include homes
with solid walls and no loft space.

• It was only really applied in terms of the potential for fuel poverty and thus
limited to the construction types and locations in which those likely to
suffer from this lived. The definition therefore often includes homes which
cannot accommodate energy efficiency schemes such as ‘Warm Front’ 1
where there is ‘no connection to low cost fuel such as oil or gas’. (Energy
Savings Trust 2007)

• The knowledge we have of our housing stock is still insufficient to provide

adequate analysis of types, numbers and energy efficiency.

It is important therefore to consider whether the use of this definition distorts

our perception of different dwelling types

The Centre for Sustainable Energy have done the most comprehensive
studies of ‘Hard to Treat Homes’ (HTTH) in their two reports to the Hard to
Treat Homes sub group of the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes (EEPH
2006; CSE 2005). They are both based on interpretations of data from the
English House Condition Survey.

They researched access to gas and the prevalence of solid wall housing.
Access to gas is not pursued here as it is common to all construction types
and, although impacting directly on carbon emissions, it relates more to
affordability of fuel than to energy use per se.

Solid walled housing is of interest here as this is a feature of some high rise
construction types – notably Wimpey no fines.

The CSE acknowledge that the availability of adequate data limits their
approach :

“It is also important to appreciate that the indicator is only intended as a

predictor of‘ hard to treat’ housing. There are, of course, a range of other
factors that can also contribute to ‘hard to treat’ but for which there is little
small area data. These may have particular significance at a small area level,
e.g. use of non-traditional construction types”. (CSE p6)

In their ‘Fuel Poverty’ report the CSE conclude that:

“In general, low-rise non-traditional housing is more energy efficient than

traditional masonry dwellings with solid walls, but less so than traditional cavity
wall housing. Of the main types of construction, non-traditional, medium and
high-rise flats have the highest average SAP ratings. The very lowest SAP
ratings are to be found in both low and high rise non-traditional housing as

For Warm Front – See glossary

James Livingstone 40
well as in traditional dwellings with solid walls. Some individual proprietary
systems provide mean SAP ratings that are significantly lower than the
average for traditional solid walled housing.” (CSE p6)

The CSE do therefore recognise for the first time here, that high rise flats
should not generally be considered as energy inefficient, and that they do not
generally even fit the definition of being ‘solid walled’ and ‘off gas’.

It continues to be surprising that we know so little about the construction types
and consequential energy performance of the housing stock in this country.
Various initiatives and research projects seek to address this and part of the
role of the recently introduced Energy Performance Certificates is to fill this
knowledge gap.

The classification of construction types and their energy efficiency, has for a
wide variety of purposes, been largely based on research gathered for the
English House Condition Surveys (EHCS) commissioned by the Government
and updated annually. The Energy Savings Trust have also published figures
for energy use by dwelling type based on Bredem methodology.

English House Condition Survey

There are about 21 million homes in the England. The EHCS results are based
on a sample of about 25 thousand – or just over one per cent - of those.

The reported results tend to be driven by policy areas and lately, Decent
Homes is at the heart of the most recent report. Although The Decent Homes
targets have a thermal comfort (energy) criterion to them, it is neither the
focus of Decent Homes – nor is it a high threshold that has to be passed to
satisfy it.1

It is the Stock Profile and the Condition of Homes sections of the EHCS that
are useful to this work, and these are included as Table 13 : Stock Profile
(EHCS 2005) and Table 14: Condition of Homes (EHCS 2005)below.

The Thermal Comfort criterion of the Decent Homes Standard
Requirement Description
Efficient Heating Heating should be programmable
Effective insulation – gas / Cavity wall insulation ( if appropriate ) or 50mm loft insulation
oil C/H systems ) (if there is a loft)
Effective insulation (Electric Cavity wall insulation ( if appropriate ) and 200mm loft
heating systems ) insulation (if there is a loft)

James Livingstone 41
Table 13 : Stock Profile (EHCS 2005)
owner private local RSL total
occupied rented authority
numbers of dwellings ('000s
dwelling age
pre 1919 3398 1,042 106 186 4,731
1919 to 1944 2,931 364 362 151 3,808
1945 to 1964 2,780 268 811 421 4,279
1965 to 1980 3,350 363 738 477 4,928
post 1980 2,873 430 149 582 4,035

dwelling type
small terraced house 1,704 445 270 246 2,665
medium/large terraced house 2,629 365 325 315 3,634
semi-detached house 4,728 447 419 302 5,897
detached house 3,512 220 9 11 3,753
bungalow 1,535 113 209 172 2,028
converted flat 288 309 42 78 716
purpose built flat, low rise 868 515 747 654 2,783
purpose built flat, high 67 54 145 40 305

dwelling size
under 50m2 1,068 573 602 593 2,837
50- up to 70m2 3,470 821 842 623 5,756
70- up to 90m2 4,749 596 596 473 6,414
90- up to 110m2 2,598 220 103 89 3,009
over 110m2 3,446 257 23 39 3,765

Neighbourhood Renewal
Funded (NRF) districts
NRF districts 5,335 1,035 1,332 838 8,540
other districts 9,996 1,432 834 979 13,241

market conditions
Market Renewal Pathfinder 411 115 202 114 842
other areas 4,920 2,352 1,964 1,703 20,939

broad regional areas

south east regions 4,492 944 667 563 6,666
northern regions 4,411 615 710 601 6,337
rest of England 6,428 908 789 653 8,778

nature of area
city or other urban centre 2,782 946 711 563 5,002
suburban 9,104 1,031 1,260 1,024 12,418
rural 3,445 490 195 230 4,361

vacant 363 253 128 80 824
occupied 14,968 2,214 2,038 1,737 20,957

All dwellings 15,331 2,467 2,166 1,817 21,781

James Livingstone 42
Table 14: Condition of Homes (EHCS 2005)
% in this group that:
... are average average averag average all
non thermal fitness, floor SAP e property dwellings
decent comfort repair or area rating (mean) value in the
homes only modernis (m2) repair group
ations costs (‘000s)
owner 24.9 15.2 9.7 94 46 43 £204,971 15,331
private rented 40.6 19.4 21.2 72 46 70 £173,119 2,467
all private 27.1 15.8 11.3 91 46 46 £200,556 17,798
local authority 33.7 19.1 14.6 63 55 50 £114,058 2,166
RSL 23.8 16.5 7.4 62 59 32 £120,665 1,817
all social 29.2 17.9 11.3 62 57 42 £117,072 3,983
dwelling age
pre 1919 40.8 25.4 15.4 96 39 71 £213,480 4,731
1919 - 1944 30.0 15.6 14.4 88 43 65 £199,292 3,808
1945 - 1964 25.8 8.2 17.6 81 48 44 £160,943 4,279
1965 - 1980 28.0 5.6 22.3 80 51 34 £164,597 4,928
post 1980 10.8 1.1 9.6 83 61 12 £190,113 4,035
dwelling type
small terraced 32.3 16.4 15.9 58 51 56 £127,656 2,665
medium/large 29.0 14.6 14.4 92 48 49 £172,289 3,634
terraced house
semi-detached 23.8 13.8 10.0 86 45 50 £173,138 5,897
detached 16.7 10.5 6.2 135 44 30 £311,681 3,753
bungalow 16.7 11.0 5.6 71 44 48 £170,394 2,028
converted flat 44.3 18.8 25.4 61 43 76 £162,483 716
purpose built 44.3 32.2 12.1 55 61 33 £130,456 2,783
flat, low rise
purpose 50.3 29.5 20.8 61 60 45 £169,98 305
built flat, 8
high rise
NRF districts
NRF districts 30.4 16.4 14.0 78 50 52 £155,156 8,540
other districts 25.6 16.0 9.6 90 47 41 £204,724 13,241
Market 36.5 15.0 21.4 72 49 68 £73,210 842
other areas 27.1 16.2 10.9 86 48 45 £173,398 20,939
broad regional
south east 29.3 17.1 12.1 85 50 46 £249,277 6,666
northern 27.3 15.9 11.3 83 48 49 £133,446 6,337
rest of 26.3 15.6 10.7 87 46 43 £174,125 8,778
nature of area
city or other 36.5 18.3 18.2 75 50 58 £174,630 5,002
urban centre
suburban 24.2 15.2 9.0 83 50 41 £172,493 12,418
rural 26.4 16.3 10.2 105 42 45 £233,956 4,361
vacant 51.0 20.1 30.9 76 47 95 £164,256 824
occupied 26.6 16.0 10.6 86 48 44 £186,117 20,957
all dwellings 27.5 16.2 11.3 85 48 46 £185,290 21,781

James Livingstone 43
Table 15 below draws out the facts most relevant to this work.

Table 15: Condition of Homes Extracts from ECHS (EHCS 2005)

High rise Highest Lowest Mean High Rise

Flats - Rank
(out of 8)
% age in this group
that are :
th -
non decent homes 50.3 50.3 16 32 8
High Rise Det. house
/ bungalow Highest
th --
fail thermal comfort only 32.2 10.5 18 7
29.5 Low rise Det. house 2 highest
those failing fitness, 20.8 25.4 5.6 14 7 -
repair or modernisations 2 highest
Converted Bungalow
st -
Average floor area (m2) 61 135 55 77 1
Detached Low rise Smallest
House flat
Average SAP rating 60 61 43 50 2 best
Low rise Converted
flat flat
Average (mean) repair 45 76 30 48 6 most
costs (£/m2 converted detached expensive
flat house
Average property value £169,988 £311,681 £127,656 5 most
Detached Small £177261 expensive
house terraced
All dwellings in the 305 5,897 305 2723 last
group (‘000s Detached High Rise Smallest
house flat

What can be learned from this

High rise flats have the highest proportion of ‘non decency’. This may be
because most high rise flats are owned by Local Authorities (LAs) and
Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), and are let as social housing. Social
housing has suffered from a lack of investment over the last 30 years.

Similarly, high rise flats have almost the highest level of failure on thermal
comfort standards. This may be for the same reasons. However it is difficult to
reconcile this with the figures for SAP1, and with the fact that most high rise
constructions had basic levels of insulation installed during construction.

High rise flats are the smallest of the house types classified.

SAP : See glossary

James Livingstone 44
High Rise flats have the second best SAP rating. This seems surprising in the
light of the fact that they are the least ‘decent’ and are included in the category
of ‘hard to treat homes’.

High rise flats have the 6th highest per metre repair costs. There is a simple
relationship between size and cost that is reflected here.

Energy Savings Trust

Figures from the Energy Savings Trust , which are again drawn from the
English House Condition Survey in Table 16 tell us that the flat is the most
energy efficient of the 2 bedroom dwelling types surveyed.(EST 2006)

Table 16: heating costs and carbon dioxide emissions by dwelling type
Gas Heating Electric Heating
Property Type Bedrooms kWh/yr kgCO2/ kWh/yr kgCO2/yr
Flat 2 11,423 2,170 8,626 3,709
Mid Terraced House 2 11,693 2,222 9,057 3,895
End Terraced House 2 15,138 2,876 12,222 5,255
Semi-Detached House 2 18,373 3,491 14,886 6,401
Detached House 2 24,412 4,638 20,092 8,639


“The hard to treat stock is generally properties that have any of

the following features: solid walls, off the mains gas network, no
loft space, high-rise blocks, or for other technical reasons cannot
be fitted with standard efficiency measures” (DCLG 2006 p12 )

The classification of Hard to treat Homes in the above way is

outdated and needs reviewing in the light of current environmental

The available knowledge of the housing stock in the UK is poor,

relying as it does to such an extent on the English House
Condition Surveys and their subsequent analysis for different

Such data as there is, tends to support the view that high rise
dwellings are in fact some of the more energy efficient dwellings in
the English housing stock and that their inclusion in the

James Livingstone 45
classification HTTH is, at the very least subject to

The next Chapter looks in more detail at the costs and practical
difficulties of improving the thermal characteristics of high rise

James Livingstone 46
6. Case Studies
This chapter looks at some recent and ongoing examples of high
rise refurbishment contracts.

It does this to assess to what extent energy efficiency is a

consideration in key decision making about the maintenance and
improvement of high rise blocks, and to assess the drivers behind
these decisions.

It does this also to look at published and reported figures for

energy savings and consumption so that comparisons can be
made between these and the analyses later in the thesis.

It is a collection of information that informs the work, rather than

analysis, as the quality of the information falls short of the detail
required for this.

Finally there is a paragraph about demolitions

The examples are drawn from two sources.

The public domain

There are a few examples of high rise refurbishments, redevelopments, and

initiatives that are written about in sufficient useful detail on the ‘world wide
web’ for inclusion here.

There are no selection criteria for their inclusion here except that they are

These are:
Glastonbury House. Pimlico
Flats in Makartstrasse Linz Germany
Ozolciema iela 46/3 Riga Zemgale. Latvia

Also included are descriptions of work from published BRE Good Practise
Guides research documents. The information is relevant to the work, but it is
over 20 years old

James Livingstone 47
Primary Research

First hand research of particular case studies was done in London and

These were selected on the basis that either they were local and records of
work were made available, or because large scale refurbishment projects were
ongoing at the time of the research, and the participants were receptive to
requests for information and assistance.

These are:

Little Venice Towers, Westminster

Kestrel House, Islington

Six Towers, Norwich

James Livingstone 48
Glastonbury House

Table 17: Glastonbury House basic information

Location Pimlico, London
Owner Westminster City Homes
Height (storeys) 22
Flats 131
Construction type Post and beam
Principal Construction Integer , Enabling Concepts , Westminster Homes
Architects , Consultants
Principal Contractors Wates Construction

Glastonbury House, is the most often cited example of a ‘sustainable’ high rise

It was heralded on its completion by John Prescott as:

“the UK's first intelligent and green residential tower, clearly a truer, better
building.” (Enabling Concepts 2002)

The key features announced at planning stage were these:

‘Intelligent Home Control’; ‘Integrated Reception System’; networked cabling
infrastructure for DTV and broadband to every flat; potential 'free' telephone
system throughout the block for calls between flats; resident involvement
throughout the development process; new neighbourhood centre and on-site
management office to provide care and support for residents; waste
segregation; target 50% reduction in energy consumption and carbon
emissions; more efficient heating and lighting; photovoltaics; wind turbine
target 40% water savings; rainwater harvesting; dual-flush toilets; roof top
residents' 'Sky Lounge'. (Wates Construction Ltd.)

Table 18: Glastonbury House. Key (predicted) performance data1

Space heating energy consumption:
Before refurbishment: 9830 kWh/flat per year
After refurbishment: 7000 kWh/ flat per year
Saving of around 29%
CO2 saved due to renewable energy 2,365 kg/a
Refurbishment cost: €14.48 million (£9.5million)

1 1
The predicted performance data was supplied to ‘Euroace’ by Enabling Concepts who
worked on the project for Integer:

James Livingstone 49
It is interesting to compare these figures with those supplied by Norwich City Council for
Winchester Tower, and those estimated by the IES simulation, both in Chapter 7.

In the Winchester tower example, the average heating load per flat is 9,700Kwh (a 78%
proportion of the total boiler load derived from fuel supplies), which is similar to those
quoted for Glastonbury house.

The IES simulation of Normandie Tower(the sister block to Winchester Tower) calculated
potential improvements to the heating load per flat of up to 86% with the addition of
100mm external insulation and 2006 standard double glazing. This compares with a
target of 29% (50%) for the Glastonbury House project.

Figure 10 : Glastonbury House proposal (Image : Cole Thompson Anders Architects. )


Glastonbury House was not externally insulated. The walls remained as brick
cavity walls with probably no more that 50mm insulation in the cavities. The
energy savings therefore were principally from heating system improvements
(connecting to the Pimlico District Heating Scheme), and double glazing and
balcony enclosure.

This project seems to have been principally aimed not at cutting energy use,
but more at a sustainability agenda that was more about social and housing

James Livingstone 50
Unfortunately (and typically of the industry) there is a lot of information about
the project at planning stage and very little information about it afterwards.
It has been impossible to establish exactly what was installed and what it’s
performance is.

It is interesting to note however, that the principal consultants on the project

however predicted an energy saving of about 29% and not 50% which was the
forecast in the contractor’s publicity, and that the wind turbine was definitely
not installed.

James Livingstone 51
Makartstrasse Flats

Table 19: Makartstrasse Flats : basic information

Location Linz Germany
Owner Not known
Height (storeys) Not known
Flats 50
Date of construction 1958
Construction type Not known . Photograph suggests cast in situ cross
wall concrete
Principal Construction Architects , Bmst. Ing. Alfred Willensdorfer
Consultants GIWOG Gemeinnützige Industrie-Wohnungs-AG
Principal Contractors Not known

This is an exemplar project in terms of energy saving. It originally aspired to

PassivHaus1 standards, but fell short of this.

The improvements depended largely on the development and application of a

new prefabricated facade, with built in windows and high levels of insulation.
This new facade with negligible air infiltration is the key to the overall
improvements in energy performance on the project.

As part of the facade, the balconies were enlarged and enclosed to include
insulated parapet walls and side frames, effectively increasing the living area
of the flats.

Services improvements included connection to a new district heating

combined heat and power plant (CHP), and heat recovery ventilation.

Unlike most British examples, some post occupancy energy monitoring figures
are available:

Table 20: Makartstrasse Flats. Post Occupancy Costs, Energy and Carbon
Space heating energy
Before refurbishment: 179kWh/ma
After refurbishment: to 13,3 kWh/ma
Saving of around 446.800 kWh/a
CO2 saved 147 kg/a (per flat)
CO2 saved due to renewable energy None
Refurbishment cost: Not known
Additional costs to achieve passive 27%
house standard

For PassivHaus – see Glossary

James Livingstone 52
This equates to space heating saving of 93%. This is equivalent to the saving achieved
for the mid floor flat at Normandie Tower analysed in Chapter 7 with a total annual
heating load of 630 watt hours (down from 9000 KWh).

Figure 11 :

Makartstrasse Flats before

the refurbishment
(Photograph: gap-solar.)

Figure 12:

Makartstrasse Flats after

the refurbishment
(Photograph: gap-solar)


This project was an experimental and demonstration one in which the aims
were specifically to try to reproduce ‘PassivHaus’ principles in an urban
refurbishment project. Although falling some way short of PassivHaus
standards, it appears to have been successful.

James Livingstone 53
Ozolciema iela 46/3
Information on this project came from Euroace.

Table 21 : Ozolciema iela 46/3, basic information

Location Riga Latvia
Owner Not known
Height (storeys) 9 Storeys
Flats Not known
Date of construction Not known
Construction type LPS - Lightweight single layer prefabricated
concrete panels
Principal Construction Architects , Not known
Principal Contractors Not known

The improvements on this project were primarily aimed at insulation of the

fabric including external insulation to the walls, double glazing, and re roofing.
The district heating system was also overhauled.

The walls were externally insulated using 80mm slabs (probably rockwool)
which was screened and rendered.

Table 22: Ozolciema iela 46/3. Cost, Energy and Carbon Performance
Space heating energy consumption:
Before refurbishment: 155 kWh/m a 2

After refurbishment: 73 kWh/m a 2

Saving of around 53% or 82 kWh/m a 2

CO2 saved 1,395 kg/a or 57%

CO2 saved due to renewable energy Not known
Refurbishment cost: Not known

There is not a lot of available information on this project, but it tells us energy
costs were more than halved through apparently simple measures of insulation
and heating improvements

Figure 13: Ozolciema iela 46/3 (Photograph Euroace)

James Livingstone 54
Examples from the Building Research Establishment
The BRE have recorded a number of improvements to high rise blocks which
are published under their own banner and that of the Department of
Environment (DOE).

They are of limited value to this work because they are all over fifteen years.
However, in the interests of seeing how understanding and priorities have
changed in this relatively short time, it is still interesting to note some general
details from some of these reports.

The DOE Good Practice Case Study 121 for instance, records ‘ energy
efficient’ improvements to six LPS blocks – all carried out in the late 1980’s.

‘Improvements’ include:
• Over cladding with rendered 50mm polystyrene or 80mm mineral wool
• Electric storage heating.
• Draft stripping to windows
• Off peak immersion heater control
• Prepayment meters.

Measurements of energy saved are made in terms, but in terms of the costs of
heating per flat not as is generally done now, in terms of U Values, SAP, or
kWh. This makes comparison with contemporary projects difficult.


Whilst the improvements are valuable, they are of a relatively modest standard
and this perhaps reflects the priorities of the time.

The use of energy costs per flat as a measure of savings tells us that fuel
poverty was of greater interest than energy use, and reflects on the fact that
standard measures are not yet settled even now in a business that is still
evolving fast

Further research into these case studies can be done following the sources
recorded in the Bibliography.

James Livingstone 55
Little Venice Towers , Westminster
Information about the project was made available from site visits, the main
contractors and the architects, in interview and by e Mail.

This project comprises the internal and external refurbishment of 6 high rise
blocks in Little Venice London in 2007/2008. These are Polesworth House,
Oversley House, Wilmcote House, Princethorpe House, Gayden House,
Brindley House.

Table 23: Little Venice Towers - basic information

Location London Borough of Westminster
Owner Westminster Homes
Height (storeys) 20
Flats / maisonettes 99
Date of construction
Construction type Wates LPS system
Principal Construction Architects , Kemp, Muir Wealleans
Principal Contractors Wates Construction Limited

Table 24: Little Venice Towers . Cost Energy and Carbon Performance
Space heating energy consumption:
Before refurbishment: Figures not available
After refurbishment: Figures not available
Saving of around Figures not available
CO2 saved Figures not available
CO2 saved due to renewable Figures not available
energy integration:

Refurbishment cost: Approximate break down of cost (millions)

External Works
Render 1.2
Concrete repairs 5.5
Cladding 5.5.
Windows 4
Access equipment 2
roofing 0.5
Sub total – external works 18.7
Internal Works
Kitchen and Bathroom 4.5
Lifts 2.5
Heating 11.8
Refuse chutes 0.75
Other 1.75
Sub total – internal works 21.3
Total 40

James Livingstone 56
The principal energy improvement measure was to upgrade the thermal
performance of the external walls by insulating them. This was done in the
main with 100mm of Rockwool. This was applied to the walls behind an
aluminium frame. Under the windows an insulated render system was
employed, as these were lightweight panels that could not support the load of
the aluminium panels.

Although designed by architects, Kemp Muir Wealleans, the contract was a

‘partnership’ with a large design and build element to it.

According to Martyn Kemp of the architects

“No we did not work out the heat loss improvement on any scientific basis. Our
client had to meet ‘Decent Homes Standards’ which just requires a reasonable
improvement. As we did not have to meet any specific standard we included
enough insulation to meet the current building control standards but were not
required to procure any specialist calculations to prove the improvement. I am
afraid this is not the scientific answer you wanted but the standards are not
specific on this point.” ( E mail 02.01.2008)

New heating was installed. There was no mains gas in the blocks, so the
architects specified electric storage heating and water heating by Elson as the
most cost effective to install.

According to the contractors, demolition was never considered as an option as

this would have been “too expensive”.

No consideration was given to renewables.


Although a lot of money and attention was given to insulating these blocks,
there is nothing to suggest that this was done with much detailed
premeditation. There does not seem to have been any particular brief or
understanding relating to the thermal performance of these blocks, the
insulation merely coming as part of the cladding package. In further support of
this suggestion is the use of electric water heaters, the absence of any
consideration given to renewables and the lack of any energy performance

I am very grateful to Anthony Dickins and Prija of Wates Construction Ltd, and
Martyn Kemp and Ken Lee of Kemp Muir Weallams architects for their
assistance and time to discuss and show me around this project.

James Livingstone 57
Before refurbishment the Little Venice Tower blocks were unsightly LPS
system built dwellings :

Figure 14: Polesworth House before refurbishment

as the scaffolding is being erected
(Photograph: Author)

Figure 15: Wilmcote House after refurbishment with

the scaffold being dismantled.
(Photograph: Author)

Figure 16: Over cladding and insulation detail on

Little Venice project.
(Photograph: Author)

James Livingstone 58
Kestrel and Peregrine Houses
This project comprised the major refurbishment in 2007/2008, driven largely by
the need for concrete repairs and by the imperatives of the Decent Homes

Information about the project was made available from site visits, the main
contractors and the architects, in interview and by E Mail.

Table 25: Kestrel and Peregrine Houses – basics

Location London Borough of Islington
Owner Homes For Islington
Floors and Flats Kestrel House 17 floors 101 flats
Floors and Flats Peregrine House 26 floors 155 flats
Date of construction 1963 –1967
Construction type LPS with brick in fill panels under windows
Principal Construction Architects , Homes For Islington
Principal Contractors Apollo Construction , DNS concrete repairs

The LPS wall panels are 300mm thick comprising (from outside to in) 250mm
dense reinforced concrete, 35 mm cork and render and plaster finish.

The design work was done by ‘Homes for Islington’. The Islington Energy
Office was not included in the design proposals and there is nothing to suggest
that thermal efficiency was an integral consideration in the design. When
asked, the design team said that it was “not practical to do wall insulation.”

Table 26: Kestrel and Peregrine Houses. Cost, Energy and Carbon performance
Space heating energy consumption:
Before refurbishment: Not known
After refurbishment: Not known
Saving of around Not known
CO2 saved Not known
CO2 saved due to renewable energy Not known
Refurbishment cost: Not known

Islington Energy Office became involved in the project when they saw an
opportunity to use a high rise block to fulfil a commitment they had to install
four wind turbines in the borough.

Kestrel House and Peregrine House were assessed for this installation.
Peregrine House was excluded because of the amount of telecommunications
equipment already on the roof.

A feasibility study was carried out for the installation on Kestrel House:

James Livingstone 59
Table 27: Wind turbine feasibility figures
Kestrel House Wind turbine project

Size 6kw
Anticipated annual output 13,000 to 18000 kWh
Average annual demand of common areas 102,000 kWh
Estimated cost of electricity for common areas £714
Estimated cost £35,000
Estimated saving (15.5 kWh @7p per unit) £1085
Estimated Revenue (@£40.00 per MWh per ROC) £620
Total revenue £1705
Simple Payback calculation1 21 years

Figure 17: Kestrel House, Islington , soon to be

home to a wind turbine
(Photograph: Author)


The driver for the external parts of project was the concrete repairs.

Replacement windows were being fitted because the old ones were no longer
serviceable – and because they are a popular improvement for occupants.

Some of the original concrete detailing made over cladding more challenging
than in other blocks that have been looked at (see photograph chapter eight),
and this may be one reason why improving the thermal performance of the
walls was not done. It is surprising though, that this never seems even to have
been part of the proposals, despite having full scaffold in place.

Calculations on ‘Builddesk’ give a U Value of 0.89 W/m2k for these walls,

which is only slightly better than an uninsulated cavity wall. (See table in chapter

No allowance is made for maintenance in this calculation.

James Livingstone 60
Energy efficiency was not a design consideration, and the wind turbine was
only proposed as highly visible part of a political drive to be at the cutting edge
of the ‘green’ agenda in London.

It is interesting to compare the payback times for the wind turbine with
payback times for external insulation seen later in the work.

I am very grateful to Graeme Lowe and Steven Henn of Islington Energy

Office, Rob Forest of Homes For Islington and Apollo Construction for their
time in interviews and for showing me around the site, whilst under

James Livingstone 61
Six Towers, Norwich.
This project comprised concrete repairs and external refurbishment to Aylmer,
Seaman, Markham, Compass, Burleigh and Ashbourne Towers, completed in
2005. Information was from interviews and a printed archive provided by
Norwich City Council.

Table 28: Six Towers Norwich – basics

Location Norwich
Owner Norwich City Council
Floors and Flats 11 storeys and 44 flats in each block
Date of construction 1965 -1968
Construction type Post and Beam with Brick in fill panels
Principal Construction Architects , Norwich City Council
Principal Contractors CityCare , Gunnite

The towers are of reinforced cast in situ concrete post and beam construction
with brick in fill panels of cavity brickwork with approximately 50mm cavity
insulation installed at the time of construction.

The towers were suffering from spalling concrete, which by 2000, had become
so bad that consideration had to be given to fencing off areas outside the
towers to protect the public from falling debris. Tests indicated that the
problems were being caused by a combination of poor ‘rebar’ cover and

Other problems in the blocks related to cold common areas, and condensation
from ‘cold bridging’ problems.

Table 29: Six Towers Norwich. Cost, Energy and Carbon performance
Space heating energy consumption:
Before refurbishment: Not known
After refurbishment: Not known
Saving of around Not known
CO2 saved Not known
CO2 saved due to renewable energy Not known
Concrete and miscellaneous repairs £650,000
Access equipment £550,000
Total £1,200,000
Refurbishment cost: Not known

District heating from CHP had been installed in the three tower blocks in the
Mile Cross area of Norwich and PVCu double glazing had been installed in all
blocks in about 1985.

James Livingstone 62

The district heating installation had addressed any fuel poverty issues that
there may have been here, so insulation was not thought to be a priority when
the concrete repairs were done.

Nevertheless, this is another example of access equipment being raised for

concrete repairs and no additional work being done whilst it was in place. In
this case the reasons given for this were largely funding related. Norwich City
Council owns these blocks. Had they been part of a stock transfer to a
Registered Social Landlord, it may be that additional funds could have been
found to replace the windows, enclose the balconies and externally insulate.

James Livingstone 63
It has not been possible to establish how many residential tower blocks have
been demolished, or exactly why decisions were taken to demolish them.
The website UK Housing Wiki which is a collaborative site (and therefore
largely unsubstantiated) records 187 cases of demolitions to date in thirteen
cities in the UK. There are obvious omissions from the list and there is every
reason to think that the total might be twice as many as this.

Reasons given for demolitions are more often than not given by local
politicians, and tend to include emotive descriptions of urban blight, damp,
flooding and structural problems. More often than not in fact, demolition takes
place as part of regeneration of an area and is seen as a kick-start to the
process, enabling funding for new housing for new communities.

An air of celebration almost always accompanies explosive demolition.

James Livingstone 64
Commentary and Conclusions
These case studies will be drawn on to illustrate points made later in the work,
but there are some interesting points that merit raising now.

Energy savings do not appear to be at the heart of refurbishment programmes

on domestic high rise.

Where energy saving measures have been included they seem to be ancillary
to the concrete repairs and aesthetic improvements. Even in the case of the
Little Venice project there is a surprising absence of standards and scientific
principles , preferring instead a ‘hit and hope’ approach.

In the Islington case, a high rise block has been used as a green flagship to
further the environmental cause and the credentials of the borough.

There is no substitute for basic insulation improvements if the object is to

reduce energy consumption however.

The European examples, particularly the German one appear to take the
energy issues further. This would tie in with Germany’s other achievements in
this area.

The agenda for energy savings has changed a lot in the last twenty years, and
is still evolving.

Figures for energy use and energy saved are still published in different ways
so do not bear comparison in every case.

It is unusual to find any reliable ‘post occupancy evaluation’ to assess the

actual achievement of projects such as these.

James Livingstone 65
7. Analysis of Heat
Loads in High Rise
Residential Buildings
This chapter reports on the analysis of the heat loads of high rise

The analysis is based on:

• Observation
• The IES VE thermal simulation tool
• Reported actual energy use.

None of these methods provides the absolute answer. Each

contributes to our understanding of the situation and illustrates
methods that can be used by building owners to assess the actual
and potential energy performance of their buildings.

The analysis is done to try and estimate the effects of different

improvement measures on the thermal performance and fuel use
of a high rise block.

It is important to observe and understand before analysing, both to illuminate
the analysis and to try to understand what to expect from it - and why.

What is it about high rise dwellings therefore that might give reason think that
they are heat efficient or heat inefficient, and what special characteristics is it
important to be aware of?

On the side of efficiency are:

• The ‘’buffer” effect of adjacent dwellings.
Each flat only has two outside walls. The others benefit from the adjacency
to other flats or to the common areas.
Similarly, with the exception of the ground and top floors, the floor and
ceilings benefit both from being protected and heated by the other
dwellings above and below.
• Simplicity of form is very helpful in external insulation, there being few
services to move or obstacles to build round. Most high rise buildings for
instance have internal rainwater down pipes.
• The potential for district heating

James Livingstone 66
• The fact that high-rise blocks are rarely considered beautiful – and often
ugly - means that over cladding may be welcomed rather than feared.

On the side of inefficiency are:

• The height of the blocks mean that over cladding and window replacement
are much harder than they would be for low rise dwellings. This is reflected
in the cost of the work.
• The height also gives greater exposure to wind and sun, making
consideration of build quality, orientation, ventilation, and shading more
important. (With this however comes the potential to take advantage of this
exposure through harnessing wind the wind and the sun for energy.)


Critical observation and understanding therefore suggests that improving the

thermal performance of high rise dwellings should achieve good results but
perhaps at a high cost.

The IES analysis :

Why thermal modelling for this project?

Thermal modelling has been used to aid our understanding of this issue
• Improvements to the thermal performance can easily be assessed and
• Computer analysis is quick, and changes to models can be made easily.
Once the model is set up, what would have taken days in the past can be
done in minutes now.
• It enables the thermal performance of the high rise block to be analysed
without the vagaries of occupant behaviour.

Limitations of computer thermal modelling

It is important to recognise the limitations of thermal modelling as well as the

strengths, so as to properly understand the conclusions that can be drawn
from it.

There are imperfections in all modelling programmes:

• In building the model, input and process errors can easily be made.
• Whilst construction elements can mostly be accurately assessed and
measured, some factors can’t be. Ventilation rates, for example, are
estimated. In reality, these vary a lot between dwellings and these

James Livingstone 67
variations depend on small things, such as distorted or ‘painted up’
• Occupant behaviour has as big an impact on thermal performance as does
the construction. Occupants may choose to ‘live cold’ or insist for example
on open windows when they sleep.

These factors mean that the greatest strengths of computer simulation are not
in predicting actual energy use, but in demonstrating relative performance of
different construction make ups.


Checks were made against results by:

Revisiting the data, checking the input values against Cibse values, application
of common sense, and calculating the U Values of the walls separately using
the Build Desk programme, referenced in chapter two.

IES Thermal Simulation Methodology

Accurate dimensions and assessment of construction details are necessary to

do this modelling.

Accurate plans are hard to come by for high rise blocks because details were
either lost by building owners or transferred to microfiche. Some building
owners have transferred these to computer readable files, but the detail is
often poor and the drawings are no longer not to scale.


Normandie Tower , Rouen Rd, Norwich was chosen because access was
made available by Norwich City Council. Within the block, one flat had been
completely gutted after a fire, so the construction details were exposed.
Measurements were taken on site to establish exact construction details for
input to the model.

Plans supplied by Norwich City Council, and the relevant specification of

construction details are included as Appendices.

The actual figures for energy consumption were only obtained after the IES
analysis was completed. They apply to Winchester Tower, the sister tower
block to Normandie Tower, constructed at the same time and to the same

Conductivity figures to calculate U values were sourced from CIBSE Guide A

James Livingstone 68
Other variables for the modelling were sourced form IES itself – or from
experience. All relevant variables are included in the Appendices.

Figure 18: Normandie Tower IES Model

Figure 19: Normandie Tower

(Photograph: Author )

James Livingstone 69

The Models Explained

The analysis looks at two simple options for the preservation of heat, external
insulation with cover cladding, and replacement glazing. It compares the heat
required in five models with different configurations of insulation and double

This approach has been taken because windows and walls constitute the
whole envelope of most high rise flats, and insulation of these elements is the
key to energy saving. These also represent the most accessible and readily
understandable options for building owners.

The Models analysed :

Model 1: As built . ‘No fines’ concrete walls and 4mm singles gazing

Model 2: As existing. ‘No fines’ concrete walls and 1985 double glazing.

Model 3: Walls insulated with 100mmm rockwool and cladding, and windows
as existing.

Model 4: ‘No fines’ concrete walls and 2006 Building Regulations standard
double glazing.

Model 5: Walls insulated with 100mmm rockwool and cladding and 2006
Building Regulations standard double glazing.

More details of the constructions and modelled variables can be seen in the

The simulation results are broken down into heat demand for space heating,
and boiler load for space heating and hot water. This project focuses on space
heating, as hot water demand is similar in all dwelling types, and largely
dependant on occupant rather than building characteristics. In this case
however kerosene is the fuel used for both space and hot water heating, so it
is necessary to include the analysis of both in order to compare it with the fuel
use figures supplied.


The Whole block

The results of the simulation in Table 30 illustrate a potential reduction over
existing performance of 86% in heat demand for the block, cutting it by 544
MWh p.a. - from 634.5 MWh p.a. in the original construction to 90.31 MWh
p.a. in Model 5.

James Livingstone 70
Table 30: IES VE Analysis of Boiler loads for Normandie Tower –(Whole Block)

Heating Boiler Load % age savings

Load (MWh) p.a. (Heating and HW ) over existing p.a.
(MWh) p.a.
Block Average Block Average Htg and
per flat Htg HW
Model 1 As Built – ‘no fines’ walls and single glazing
933.34 9.82 1194.26 12.57 n/a n/a
Heating is 78% of total boiler load
Model 2 As existing – ‘no fines ‘ walls and 1985 double glazing
634.5 6.68 901 9.48 n/a n/a

Model 3 Insulated walls and 1985 double glazing

273.48 2.88 499.38 5.26 56.90% 44.57%

Model 4 ‘no fines‘ walls and 2006 double glazing

157.88 1.66 370.79 3.90 75.12% 56.84%

Model 5 Insulated walls and 2006 double glazing

90.31 0.95 295.6 3.11 85.77% 67.19%

The most significant gain is from insulating the walls. This is the case because
the walls constitute the largest external surface area (78%), and the U value of
the walls is being cut by over half from 0.54 to 0.28 W/m2k.

Flat by flat results

Table 31 breaks down the results into across section of individual dwellings.
This level of analysis gives us further insights into the thermal dynamics of the

• Heat demand is much higher on the top and ground floor illustrating the
level of heat loss through the flat roof and into the ground. The flat roof
could relatively easily be improved, but the replacing of the ground floor
would be much more disruptive. Both these could be easily modelled, but
would add little to the overall debate.
• Orientation makes a small but significant difference.
• Heat demand reduces and then increases going up the block.

This type of analysis would be very useful to building owners in engaging

occupants with the potential improvement process as they can easily assess
the level of savings they might make individually. This may also have a more
direct impact on the assessment of fuel poverty issues.

James Livingstone 71
Table 31: Flat by flat results of IES.VE analysis

Model 1 – As built . ‘No fines‘ walls and single glazing

Flats : MWh GF 1st floor 8th floor 14th floor Top floor
Flat 1 2bed NW Facing N/A 12.46 11.85 12.38 13.79
Flat 2. 2 bed flat SW facing 17.06 10.51 9.99 10.92 12.02
Flat 3. 1 bed flat N facing 12.55 8.07 7.74 7.8 8.6
Flat 4. 1 bed flat S facing 11.6 7.03 6.69 7.5 8.43
Flat 5.2 bed flat SE facing 16.92 10.28 9.75 10.16 11.41
Flat 6. 2bed flat NE facing 18.56 11.74 11.19 11.99 13.27

Model 2 - Existing. ‘No fines‘ walls and 1985 double glazing

Flats : MWh GF 1st floor 8th floor 14th floor Top floor
Flat 1 2bed NW Facing N/A 7.2 6.63 6.78 8.07
Flat 2. 2 bed flat SW facing 12.35 5.87 5.38 5.51 6.65
Flat 3. 1 bed flat N facing 9.1 4.6 4.26 4.35 5.12
Flat 4. 1 bed flat S facing 8.47 3.95 3.63 3.71 4.49
Flat 5.2 bed flat SE facing 12.02 5.5 4.98 5.11 6.26
Flat 6. 2bed flat NE facing 13.52 6.67 6.13 6.25 7.42

Model 3 – 100mm External insulation and 1985 double glazing

Flats : MWh GF 1st floor 8th floor 14th floor Top floor
Flat 1 2bed NW Facing N/A 3.15 2.66 2.8 3.9
Flat 2. 2 bed flat SW facing 8.42 2.48 2.08 2.2 3.13
Flat 3. 1 bed flat N facing 6.38 2.12 1.83 1.91 2.58
Flat 4. 1 bed flat S facing 5.78 1.59 1.31 1.39 2.03
Flat 5.2 bed flat SE facing 8.01 2.1 1.69 1.8 2.71
Flat 6. 2bed flat NE facing 9.37 2.9 2.43 2.55 3.57

Model 4 - ‘No fines’ walls and 2006 double glazing

Flats : MWh GF 1st floor 8th floor 14th floor Top floor
Flat 1 2bed NW Facing N/A 1.79 1.35 1.49 2.48
Flat 2. 2 bed flat SW facing 7.5 1.36 1.02 1.12 1.94
Flat 3. 1 bed flat N facing 5.28 1.19 0.93 1 1.62
Flat 4. 1 bed flat S facing 4.81 0.85 0.63 0.69 1.25
Flat 5.2 bed flat SE facing 6.63 1.07 0.74 0.86 1.59
Flat 6. 2bed flat NE facing 7.79 1.58 1.17 1.28 2.19

Model 5 - 100mm external insulation and 2006 double glazing

Flats : MWh GF 1st floor 8th floor 14th floor Top floor
Flat 1 2bed NW Facing N/A 0.96 0.61 0.73 1.55
Flat 2. 2 bed flat SW facing 5.83 0.71 0.44 0.53 1.97
Flat 3. 1 bed flat N facing 4.48 0.67 0.45 0.52 1.19
Flat 4. 1 bed flat S facing 3.98 0.41 0.23 0.29 1.03
Flat 5.2 bed flat SE facing 5.42 0.47 0.23 0.3 0.89
Flat 6. 2bed flat NE facing 6.52 0.81 0.49 0.57 1.32

James Livingstone 72
Analysis : The benefits of sharing walls and heat

For this experiment Flat 2 was ‘ taken out’ of the block and analysed as if it
were a bungalow with a solid ground floor and flat roof of similar construction
to flats in Normandie Tower. The walls and glazing received the same
treatment as the flats in the blocks in the various models.

This represents what is probably a hypothetical scenario (although there were

many no fines concrete houses built in the 1960’s), but nevertheless helps to
illuminate the heat sharing and insulating effects that flats have on each other
in a block.

The modelled ‘bungalow’ now has four outside walls and exposed flat roof and

Table 32: Comparison of heat loads for flat and same construction bungalow.

2 Bed flat converted to bungalow (Flat 2) – Compared to Results for 8 floor flat
Heating loads (MWh p.a.)

‘Bungalow’ 8th Floor flat

Model 1 As Built – ‘no fines’ walls and single glazing
40.4 10.74

Model 2 As existing – ‘no fines ‘ walls and 1985 double glazing

34.95 5.38

Model 3 Insulated walls and 1985 double glazing

31.56 2.08

Model 4 ‘no fines‘ walls and 2006 double glazing

30.7 1.02

Model 5 Insulated walls and 2006 double glazing

27.38 0.44

Actual Figures
Norwich City Council supplied the figures for oil consumption at Winchester
Tower, the sister block to Normandie Tower.1 These are produced in full in the
Appendices, but summed up and compared with the IES analysis in Table 33

Winchester Tower was constructed at the same time and to the same specification as
Normandie Tower. Winchester Tower has a slightly older average tenant than Normandie.

James Livingstone 73
Table 33: Actual and IES simulation figures for whole block boiler loads

Heat and Hot water MWh Difference

Actual 2005/2006 ( Winchester Tower) 1184

IES VE modelled ( Normandie Tower ) 901 23%

There is a significant difference in the amount of oil actually used and that
calculated in the simulation.

The difference could be accounted for by a number of factors including:

• Human behaviour,
• More air infiltration than allowed for in the model.
• Greater than estimated inefficiencies in the boiler and heating system.
• Greater hot water use.
• Conversion rates. NCC have applied a figure of 10.6 to convert the oil to
kWh. This is a bit higher than the generally accepted figure of 10.3 used by
the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) among others and takes no
account of distribution losses or boiler efficiencies.
• Other inaccuracies in the models


Having discovered this difference, it is important to assess how much it affects

confidence in the results of the IES analysis.

Whilst it would have been good to achieve a result closer to actual, it would be
a mistake to do it by trying to adjust the inputs to fit.

The introductory paragraph highlighted the importance of IES VE in analysing

relative improvements in thermal performance rather than absolute ones, and
the analysis is still perfectly valid for this.

In terms of absolute values for thermal performance, lengthy site evaluation to

assess the actual performance of the flats and their occupants would be

It is quite satisfactory to accept the analysis and work in the knowledge of this
limitation and to aspire to do longer term research into the actual performance
of buildings that have had this type of improvement work done.

Potential Savings
Projected financial, energy and carbon savings can now be calculated for
these models from the savings figures in Table 30 above.

James Livingstone 74
Table 34 : Projected savings in cost of oil (per annum) from insulation measures

Oil used Cost

Existing – ‘no fines ‘ walls and 1985 double glazing
Actual 111754 ltrs £37,748

Model 3 Insulated walls and 1985 double glazing

Projected with 44.57% saving £20923

Model 4 ‘no fines‘ walls and 2006 double glazing

Projected with 56.84% saving £16292

Model 5 Insulated walls and 2006 double glazing

Projected with 67.19% saving £12385

The 67.19% saving on boiler load between the existing Model (Model 2) and
Model 5 represents a potential saving of 53,000 litres of oil, equivalent to about
£18,000 (at today’s rates) and 14,045 kilograms of carbon dioxide.1
With available estimates varying around an average of about £1 million
pounds2 to do this work, the ‘simple’ payback period looks unattractive at 55
years. But although the payback period is important, it requires the use of
projected fuel prices such as ‘Fuel Prophet’3 might give, and does not take into
account offset costs and other benefits to the occupants arising from the work.

Thermal performance analysis of Normandie Tower a ‘no fines’
concrete construction high rise block was carried out using
observation, IES VE analysis and actual fuel use data.

The analysis indicated that some dramatic potential energy

savings are possible using external insulation and double-glazing

The modelling results showed a potential reduction in average

space heating demand in the flats, from 13MWh per flat as built, to
1.25 MWh with these measures.

This compares well with available benchmarks. The current

average for UK housing stock is 14MWh, and the 40% House

Current price of oil taken as 35 p per litre. Conversion rate for Kerosene (10.3 KWh per litre
of oil) from the dti. Conversion rate for oil ( 0.265 Kg Co2 per Kwh) from Energy Savings
Estimated using Sustaining Towers website figures and Little Venice figures (Chapter 6)
Fuel Prophet is a software tool that forecasts the effects of fuel price increases on payback
times for investments in energy efficiency.

James Livingstone 75
scenario target average for 2050 is 6.8MWh (Boardman et al 2005 p40).
The figure also compares well with PassivHaus and AECB

There did however, prove to be a significant difference between

actual and predicted fuel use. Although this impacts on the value
of the analysis it does not significantly undermine it.

More detailed analysis based on observation and evaluation of

actual data would be useful.

Using the model to ‘take out’ the flat from its context usefully
demonstrated the buffer effects of its neighbours on fuel
consumption for space heating, and showed why the flat can have
so much more potential for low energy use, than a detached
house, for example.

Differences in construction type and complexity of form mean that

other high rise blocks will present greater challenges than
Normandie Tower, both to the modeller and to retrofitting

See Chapter 9 for further details

James Livingstone 76
8. Improvements to
Thermal Performance -
Potentials and
This chapter looks at the practicalities of improving the energy
performance of high rise buildings.

One of the key drivers behind this work is the conviction that
insulation comes before renewables in the drive to save energy in
housing, and it is on this therefore, that this chapter concentrates.

This chapter also looks briefly at opportunities that are specific to

high rise blocks for improvements in the efficiency of heating
systems, and the installation of ‘renewables’.

Access is the issue which, more than any other, influences the approach to
improvement and remedial works on high rise buildings.

In the case studies in chapter six, access costs in the Westminster and
Norwich examples were about £300,000 per twenty one storey block and
£90,000 per eleven storey block respectively.1 It is important therefore, that if
access equipment is going to be erected, maximum possible advantage is
made of it, and that workmanship is of the highest quality so that maintenance
is minimised.

See chapter six – case studies

James Livingstone 77
External insulation and cladding
Choice of materials / systems1

Ventilated or unventilated systems are the two basic choices for external
insulated cladding of high rise blocks,

Unventilated systems, where the protective cladding is hard up against the

insulation, are more commonly specified. Ventilated systems do have the
advantage that any interstitial condensation will be dissipated more easily but
unventilated systems are easier to install and take less space.

The protective coating is usually finished with a polymer based render on

mesh that can be presented as pebbledash, brick slips, or coloured at the
clients discretion. The improvement in looks of a block is one of the great
advantages of external cladding.

Figure 20: Aluminium over cladding at

Little Venice has dramatically improved
the look of the blocks
(Photograph Author)

Problems associated with installation of over cladding include:

Wind loadings, metal fatigue to fixings, over stressing foundations, weather
tightness, fire spread, colour change, and pollution.(Brookes A 1998)

It has been argued that the simple form of the high rise block makes them
conducive to external cladding and insulation. This was so in the Normandie
Tower example used in chapter seven, but is by no means always the case.

Permarock, Sto , Weber and Alumasc systems are the market leaders. Their products were
looked at to inform this section, together with those sources listed in the bibliography

James Livingstone 78
Many brick built houses with complex architectural features and surface
mounted building services present a much greater challenge to external
insulation. Although form is not generally as complex on high rise as on these,
high rise blocks are not just the flat boxes they are sometimes thought of.

Features include balconies and sculpted concrete, such as that at Kestrel

House as well as raised and indented panels, all of which require additional
detailing if they are to be successfully clad.

Figure 21: The corrugated

concrete at Kestrel House has
been expertly repaired.
The complication of this profile and
other detailing makes over cladding
more complicated
(Photograph Author)

The installation of external cladding requires cutting in around these

architectural details. Window sills need extending, and any externally mounted
building services (usually just lightning conductors in high rise buildings) need
removing and replacing. Adaptations to flues and extractor ducts and terminals
may be necessary and movement joints in the substrate also need to be
accommodated in the insulation system.

The more complex the work, the more likely that the workmanship will be poor,
air infiltration levels may not be cut as much as anticipated, and maintenance
problems may arise.

Figure 22 : Detailing for cladding

(Kemp Muir Wealleans)

Form also takes in aesthetics here. It is much more palatable to over clad an
ugly plain building than a complex and attractive one.

James Livingstone 79
Extreme weather conditions can prevail high up. Suction loads from wind and
rain loadings that are not met at ground level must be catered for.

It is imperative that workmanship is of the highest quality to avoid thermal
bridging, infiltration and weathering problems.

Fire testing at the BRE (Colwell and Martin 2003) has concluded that spread of fire
through thermosetting insulation1 and expanded polystyrene is too great to
allow their use on multi-storey buildings, unless a barrier of Rockwool is
incorporated at each level. In practise this means that Rockwool is the
insulation of choice for most, if not all, proprietary insulation systems for
external application to multi-storey blocks.

The British Board of Agrement Certificates for external cladding (Swisslab 2003)
state that high internal moisture content internally could result in interstitial
condensation but not in the insulation itself. This seems unlikely and in any
event can be calculated prior to installation and prevented through the
installation of efficient ventilation systems.

Internal Insulation
Internal insulation is an option that has been chosen by a number of landlords,
but has normally been done on a ‘piecemeal’ basis in response to extreme
condensation problems – caused by uninsulated walls and cold bridging, often
exacerbated by lifestyle issues.

It is more straightforward than external insulation in the sense that it can be

done flat by flat and does not require access equipment to do the work.
However, disruption to the occupants is extreme. There is a loss of floor space
and, if workmanship is not of the highest quality, interstitial condensation is

There is also a loss of thermal mass, but in the case of high rise blocks there
is enough concrete in the floors and internal walls for this to be insignificant.

There are enough good throught the enclosed balco reasons for insulating
externally that it is the default choice, but internal insulation can be more
appropriate where the form of the building externally is so irregular that
external cladding is impractical, or where other external works are not taking
place requiring access equipment.
The Blades Rise Estate in Sandwell is an example of large-scale internal
insulation. (Trim 1991)
See Glossary. Includes Polyisocanurates, phenolic foams and polyurethane.

James Livingstone 80
Balcony enclosure
Glazed balcony enclosure is often a good choice if access equipment is in
place, particularly where the balcony is recessed on the face of the building,
such as at Glastonbury House.

If used properly and oriented right, solar gain through the enclosed balcony
can give considerable fuel and ‘feel good’ benefits to the occupants.

Balcony enclosures can also reduce wind noise and cut down on the problems
with pigeons that are commonly associated with high rise living.

Roof Insulation
Roof insulation benefits the top floor flats, and it almost goes without saying
that when the roof surface needs recovering, the insulation should be
upgraded to the highest standards. Although easier with external access, it can
be done independently of other external works. Some owners have
approached this by ‘pitching ‘ the previously flat roof. This often provides an
aesthetic improvement as well.

Most high rise roof spaces have been let to telecommunication companies,
who may install bulky equipment, which can seriously obstruct improvements
to the roof surface.

Windows generally have shorter life span than other elements of the external
envelope. For this reason, a lot of high rise blocks seem to have had window
replacement programmes in the early 1980’s, often before concrete repairs
were really needed. Early forms of PVCu double glazed windows were
generally the replacement of choice, and in a number of cases external
cladding was also done. PVCu profiles from this date have developed
problems with discoloration and have become brittle. In many cases they now
need replacing again.

There is nothing complicated about window replacement in high rise buildings

except access and ensuring that the workmanship and materials are good
enough to last in the demanding conditions.

With access so difficult, windows of the highest available (proven) quality

should be installed when access equipment is in place.

Although there are many sound environmental reasons not to use PVCu, the
technology has improved, and there are compelling arguments for using it in
windows in situations where access for maintenance is difficult.

James Livingstone 81
Heating Improvement Options
In 1991 the Building Research Establishment published figures for the installed
primary heating type in high rise residential blocks. (Trim .M. 1991). Electricity at
56% was the most common form installed in high rise ahead of gas (32%)
solid fuel (7%) and oil (2%).

Electricity was often installed because it was thought at the time, to be the
cheapest, and the safest. This was generally in the form of under floor or warm
air heating, both of which later came to be relatively expensive and subject to
system failure.

Oil, some gas and solid fuel systems were generally district heating schemes
run from central boilers often serving more than one block.

The concentration of properties under one landlord and geographically close

affords the opportunity for very efficient district heating and combined heat and
power installations

However, existing infrastructure often determines the possibilities for heating

replacements. Where electric heating has been installed originally, it is often
seen as the only practical option to replace this with new electric heating – as
in the case of the Little Venice project written up in chapter six.

Gas is currently the most efficient and cheap readily available fuel, but
landlords are very reluctant to install gas mains in tower blocks where there
were none previously for reasons of cost and perceptions about safety.

Existing district heating schemes benefit from the greatest efficiencies as

opportunities arise for their replacement with combined heat and power.
(Norwich and Aberdeen (EST 2004)) or as in the case in the Sheffield Road flats
in Barnsley (Ashden Awards) the replacement of coal fired district heating boilers
with wood pellet systems.

The facades of high rise blocks could be suitable for the erection of photo
voltaic (PV) panels. Research only revealed one example of this being done.
This was on Bowater House in Sandwell, where a small 4KW array was
installed in 1999. (Save Energy)

High rise rooftops are generally too small and often too crowded, to make a
significant contribution to either electricity or hot water generation, but they do
have the advantage of not being liable to shading. There are PV panels on the
roof of Glastonbury Tower in London, but there is no information available on
the size and generating capacity.

James Livingstone 82
Solar Century have installed panels to the facade of the CIS Tower, an office
building in Manchester. Performance figures are not available for this

This could serve as a model for the potential for PV in domestic high rise
buildings. However, office buildings, and this building in particular which has a
flat glazed facade, are usually better suited in use and design to the
application of PV facades.

The web site reports that the...

“7,244 solar photo voltaic panels, designed to convert daylight into electricity,
will create 180,000 units of renewable electricity each year” (Co op bank)

They state that the cladding project cost £5.5 million to do, but there is no
estimate of what cost can be offset from that amount to get the true extra over
cost of the solar panels. They do claim however that the
“PV panels are cheaper than most commonly used high quality cladding

There isn’t adequate information to make a proper assessment of this but, at

£5.5 million, the pay back period at today’s rates for electricity and Renewable
Obligations Certificates1 (ROCs) is about 250 years, so it is unlikely that
lower profile housing projects are adopted as exemplars for this technology
until the costs come down a long way - or prices go up.

One of the factors contributing to this relatively poor performance is the angle
of tilt and orientation of the panels. The following table illustrates the point.

Table 35: How Orientation and Tilt affect Photovoltaic Electricity Generation

‘ Retscreen’ 2 simulation for high rise in Manchester with no shading

Average Energy Generation

Orientation Tilt Generation Difference from

kWh/m2/day Optimum
South 35 deg 3.00 Optimum
South Vertical 2.18 17%
South Horizontal 2.63 12%
East / West 35 deg 2.46 18%
East / West Vertical 1.63 47%
East / West Horizontal 2.63 12%

The table shows that that efficiency of the PV cells is compromised by 17%
when placed vertically as a building facade, and that east or west facing
facades suffer a 50% loss in efficiency.

For ROCs see glossary.
For Retscreen see Bibliography

James Livingstone 83
Solar thermal
Similar issues apply to solar thermal installation, although it might be
advantageous use it to preheat some domestic water with panels on the roof.

Installations on a flat by flat basis are probably impossible because there is

usually no stored water in the flats themselves, either because they are
connected to district heating systems or because they use combination type

Wind Power
The Islington case study case in Chapter 6 analyses the potential of wind
power on Kestrel House concluding a simple payback of twenty one years.
This seems reasonable, with turbines generally having a simple maintenance
schedule and a long life, but the figures have yet to be substantiated.

Energy for Sustainable Development carried out a feasibility study on wind

turbines for high rise dwelling blocks in Bradford (ESD 2003); They concluded
that the best potential payback period was 17 years even allowing for a 50%
grant towards installation. This was for 6kW ‘Proven’ type turbine – the same
type being installed in Islington.

Putting economic feasibility side, it should be remembered that the visibility of

this type of project acts as a great proclamation of commitment to renewable
sources of energy, which arguably has great value in itself.

"It's not going to generate loads and loads of electricity but it is a symbol of
where we should be going with renewable energy."
(Ian Simpson, Bradford Community Housing Trust Executive Director 2007)

Limitations of these projects include potential structural problems and the

possibility of vibration in the flats below. These issues have yet to be fully
explored. It may be of interest that Energy for Sustainable Development
declined to supply any contact details or post installation information on the
Bradford development.

Wind power on high rise buildings is therefore significant for its symbolic and
political value, if not for its economic benefits. There may of course still be
technologies to be developed that take particular advantage of the wind
conditions around high rise buildings. Generally though, wind turbines are
likely to be better suited to new build projects rather than retrofits.

Management and Tenure

This work has deliberately stayed away from discussion of management and
ownership issues, but in this chapter is important to note that occupiers can
make or break energy efficiency improvement programmes, and their
involvement ins crucial in the success and ambition of these projects.

James Livingstone 84
Tenure can also make a significant difference. The installation of energy
efficiency improvements can sometimes be held back by the changing tenure
of blocks. Leaseholders for example, can be reluctant to invest in
improvement schemes.

In the case of the Little Venice project, the project manager from Wates
Construction Ltd reported that leaseholders supported the project because of
the potential increase in property values arising from it, but there have been
reports of improvements being blocked by leaseholders where paybacks
appear more marginal.

High rise blocks have particular challenges, but also offer particular
opportunities for the installation of energy efficiency measures.

Each case needs individual assessment based on the criteria here.

A key conclusion however is that, if access equipment is erected for any

reason, then full advantage should be taken of it to carry out widespread
improvement works and that this work must be done to the highest standard to
minimise long term maintenance.

The retrofitting of renewable energy technologies on high rise blocks is

important for its visibility, but the practicality and economics appear very
challenging for most landlords at present.

James Livingstone 85
9. The Environmental
Impact of Demolition,
Replacement and
Refurbishment of High
Rise Blocks
Chapter four looks at the demolition / refurbishment debate in
general terms and concludes that demolition and rebuild is
generally more energy efficient over the lifetime of buildings than

This chapter looks at this debate with specific reference to high

rise residential blocks.

It uses Normandie Tower in Norwich as a case study for this


It looks first at what the embodied energy of a tower block is.

It then looks at the embodied energy in the refurbishment of the

tower block.

The running costs of the tower block and the running costs of
replacement houses are then calculated. These are combined with
the figures for embodied energy, to compare the life time energy
costs of the two types.

Finally, it also looks at the implications for land use if high rise
blocks are replaced by low-rise housing.

James Livingstone 86
What is in a tower block?

Table 36 shows the calculations done for this paper of the embodied energy
and carbon dioxide in Normandie Tower.

It is limited to the fabric of the building and does not include services, fixtures,
or fittings.

In the table the embodied energy source data comes from Bath University.
(2007). The density figures for materials are sourced from IES Virtual
Environment programme. The density figure for no fines concrete are
increased to allow for high density beams and columns. The figures for the
windows are based on 3980 mj per 1.2 x 1.2 window (Asif et al)

By Bath University’s own admission their figures are need further work. For
example, these are ‘cradle to gate’ and in some cases ‘cradle to site’ so do not
include integration into the building. This is probably a very small proportion of
the costs, but a significant one nevertheless.

Construction processes and energy costs change. It is the replacement energy

and carbon costs of the tower block that are being analysed, and not the
original cost of construction.

Nevertheless, it gives some indication of the investment in the structure, from

which we can summarise more accessibly as follows:

Normandie Tower contains 21000 tonnes of materials produced at a

cost of 7,100 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy and 3000 tonnes of
carbon dioxide.
Of this, 20,500 tonnes (or 98%) is concrete produced at a cost of 6000
MWh and 2646 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

James Livingstone 87
Table 36: Calculation of Mass. Embodied Energy and Embodied Carbon in Normandie Tower
General description : 16 storeys. 95 flats. Central core with services , lift, stairs and access corridors to flats
Materials Thickness Area m2 Volume Density Total Embodied Embodied Embodied Embodied
m3 kg/m3 Weight energy energy carbon Kg carbon
External Walls Mj/Kg Mj Co2 /Kg Kg Co2
Pebble dash 10mm 3265 32.65 1800 58770 0.15 8815 0.08 4701
External render 25mm 3265 81.62 1300 105638 1.52 1,60569 0.228 24085
‘No fines’ Concrete 300mm 3265 979.5 1700 16655150 0.81 13,490,672 0.102 1,698825
Glass Fibre Quilt 50mm 3095 154.75 12 1857 28 51996 1.35 2506
Plasterboard 13mm 3095 40.23 950 3990 2.7 10773 0.24 957.6
Plaster 5mm 3095 15.5 1200 18600 1.8 33480 0.16 2976
Dense cast concrete 250mm 5760 1440 2000 2880000 2.36 6,796,800 0.265 763200
Flat Roof
3 layer bitumen felt 15mm 459 6.88 1700 11696 75 877200 3.8 44444
Ply 25mm 459 11.47 700 8029 15 120435 0.75 6021.75
fibreglass 100mm 459 45.9 12 550.8 28 15422 1.35 743.58
dense concrete slab 150mm 459 68.85 2000 137700 2.36 324972 0.265 36490
Plaster 13mm 459 5.97 1200 7164 1.8 12895 0.16 1146
Internal Walls (Dividing )
Plaster 13mm 2853 37.09 1200 44508 1.8 80114.4 0.16 7121.28
Cast Concrete 130mm 2853 370.9 1500 556358 2.36 1313005 0.265 147434
Plaster 13mm 2853 37.09 1200 44508 1.8 80114.4 0.16 7121
Windows Materials Area Units No Embodied Total Embodied Embodied
energy embodied carbon Kg carbon
mj/unit energy Co2 /unit Kg Co2
Double glazed PVCu 2 X 4mm 924 1.44m2 745 2980 2,220,100 372.5 277512

Totals 25597363 3025284

James Livingstone 89
The Embodied Energy of the Replacement Dwellings
Figures for the embodied energy of new dwellings vary widely:

Table 37: Embodied Energy of new buildings (ECI 2007 p1)

Source Embodied Notes
Sustainable Homes 22 Given as 250 kWh/m2. Assumed floor area
– low estimate = 88 m2 average
Sustainable Homes 44 Given as 500 kWh/m2. Assumed floor area
– high estimate = 88 m2 average
Empty Homes 90 Subject to error according to Killip et al (ECI
Agency 2006)
Buchanan & Honey 60 Based on New Zealand construction - not
– low estimate typical of UK
Buchanan & Honey 103 Based on New Zealand construction - not
– mid estimate typical of UK
Buchanan & Honey 144 Based on New Zealand construction - not
– high estimate typical of UK
BRE – low estimate 28 Quoted in XCO2 2002
BRE – high estimate 70 Quoted in XCO2 2002
XCO2 80 Based on other studies

Table 37 above gives a wide range of figures for the embodied energy in new

Normandie Tower
Normandie Tower comprises 95 dwellings.

To replace these 95 dwellings therefore would cost anywhere between 2,090

MWh (Sustainable Homes Low Estimate) and 13,680 MWh (Buchanan and
Honey high). The average figure is 7885 MWh.

It is not really possible to convert this figure to carbon dioxide without the source
data on production methods and fuels used.

Given the variation in the estimates, the figure of 7,100 MWh produced in the
analysis in Table 39 does not compare too badly, particularly when taking into
consideration the apparent naivety of the science.

James Livingstone 90
The Embodied Energy in Tower Block Refurbishment
Estimating the energy costs of the tower block refurbishment is far from straight

The only available figure for the embodied energy in refurbishment at the time
of writing is that quoted by David Ireland of the Empty Property Agency (no date):

“The total embodied energy in building a house can be added up. For what it’s
worth it’s normally about 90,000kWh for a new family house. Comparing that
with refurbishing a house let’s take a typical £40,000 refurbishment of a derelict
three bedroom semi. A refurbishment of this kind would use about 15MWh of
embodied energy.”

It is possible to look at some of the materials. In this case, the primary materials
for energy saving are the double glazing and the external insulation.

Permarock, the system recommended and used in the simulation models in

chapter seven comprises 100mm rockwool with a protective coating of ‘a high
polymer content cementitious material and reinforcing mesh ’ and galvanised
steel framework and fixings.

Permarock insulation board has embodied energy of approximately 91 mega

joules per metre squared for 60mm thick insulation (Permarock Ltd Specification

The Normandie Tower example uses 100mm rockwool so 40mm needs adding
as per table 38 below:1

Table 38: Calculating the embodied energy of insulated cladding

Thick Area vol density weight Emb. Emb. Emb.
mm m2 m3 kg/m3 kg energy energy energy
Mj/xx Mj MWh
Permarock 60 3265 n/a n/a n/a 91/m2 297115 825
Rockwool 40 3265 131 12 1572 16.8 26409 7.3

Table 39: Calculating the embodied energy of new windows

No Embodied energy Embodied energy Emb energy
mj/unit mj MWh
Windows2 745 2980 2,220,100 617

These two improvements represent an energy investment of 1449 MWh, which

equates to 15.2 MWh per flat. This is very close to the figure from the Empty
Homes Agency above, but bear in mind that the comparison between the
refurbishment of a family house and the over cladding of a tower block is not a
good one. In the case of Normandie Tower, there is no allowance for internal

Embodied Energy base figures from Bath University ICE as per table 39 above
3980 mj per 1.2 x 1.2 window ( Asif et al)

James Livingstone 91
refurbishment and updating. It would not be unreasonable to add a third to this
figure to account for this to say 20MWh.

Running costs
This section looks at the running costs in energy terms of the flats to see how
they compare with published benchmark figures.

In the Normandie Tower IES VE analysis in chapter seven, space heating

demand was estimated to reduce overall to 90 MWh, or to an average of 1.25
MWh per flat, or 25 kWh /m2 with the two improvements cited above.1

Table 40: Benchmark figures for energy use for space heating from hot water
Measurement Standard Energy use standard
UK Average1 140 KWm2/year
BedZED1 16.2 KWm2/year
AECB Silver2 40 KWm2/year
AECB Gold2 15 KWm2/year
Passivhaus2 15 KWm2/year
BedZED Bioregional

The Normandie Tower improvements therefore compare quite favourably with

benchmark standards, falling between the AECB Silver and Gold standards.

Total Energy Returns from Refurbishment and Rebuild

This section combines the energy in use with the energy used in new build or
refurbishment, to compare the total energy use over the lifetime of a flat in the
refurbished Normandie Tower and a dwelling built to the PassivHaus standard.

The information is presented in the graph below.

The tower block energy line starts at 15.2 MWh (the amount of energy taken to
refurbish the block) and climbs at 1.25 MWh per annum, (the average annual
energy consumption per flat). The PassivHaus line starts a 60 MWh ( the
amount of energy required to build the PassivHaus and climbs at an annual
rate of 0.8 MWh. The crossover occurs in about 2110, when the theoretical
lifetime energy requirement for the PassivHaus is less than that for the
refurbished tower block.

Error allowance of 25% made based on calculations in Chapter 7

James Livingstone 92
Figure 23: PassivHaus and refurbished flat. Lifetime energy use compared

Combined embodied and in use energy for space heating



Energy in MWh

Energy used per flat (refurb)
1.25 pa
energy used per new
passivhaus 0.8 p.a




The graph shows us that, even with PassivHaus standards it takes over a
hundred years to make the ‘in use’ energy savings necessary to outweigh the
difference in embodied energy investment between the refurbished high rise flat
and the new build.

The impact on land use of the demolition and

replacement options
The last section in this chapter deals with demolition and land useusing
Normandie Tower as the case study.

Normandie Tower contains 95 flats.

The flats have an average floor area of 50m2

The total footprint of the block is 460 m2.

It is unusual for a high rise block to sit in less than 8 times its own footprint, so
an allowance of 3680m2 is made. This is equivalent to about 0.9 acre or 0.32

Normandie Tower then, can be said to have been built at a density of about 294
dwellings per hectare.

James Livingstone 93
Development densities for new dwellings vary according to locationdwelling
type and local planning policy. Some examples of urban densities are given

Table 41: Examples of development densities

Development density/hectare Source
New developments
Poundbury 30
2 (3)
Greenwich Millennium village 292 (134 according to Rogers)
Olympic village Barcelona 71
Average density of housing developments in 78 3
London 1997 -20003
Existing Developments
Paris centre 300
Kowloon centre 1700
Planning Policy Statement 3 Planning Minimum 30
Society Guardian 31.07.02
CABE Building for life
. Society Guardian 25.06.03
PPS 3. P 17

Where tower blocks have been demolished it has been done largely for social
reasons, and they are not replaced by other tower blocks. This would be seen
to be repeating the same ‘mistakes‘.

It is likely therefore that the replacement dwellings will require as much as twice
the land as the demolished tower block occupies. Bear in mind also that
Normandie Tower stands at a relatively modest 15 storeys high. The impact
doubles for blocks of thirty storeys, of which there are many examples.

The point is well made by Rogers however that achievable density is as much
about good and appropriate design as it is about numbers.

Richard Rogers in his ‘Housing for a Compact City ‘ report for the Mayor of London
suggests that terraced housing, medium rise and high rise (20 storeys) can be built in the
same plot, giving very different results in terms of privacy and amenity, but resulting in the
same density. His figure is 75 dwellings per hectare which seems to give a larger than
normal space around the tower block and no parking for the terraced housing development.
(Rogers 2003 p 20)

James Livingstone 94
This chapter concludes that the approximate energy costs of
demolition and replacement of Normandie Tower or an equivalent
Tower Block is 7885 MWh (the energy required to build the
equivalent number of replacement dwellings).

This does not take into account the hazards and cost associated
with demolition.

It also concludes that refurbishment to the levels in chapter seven

is more cost effective than demolition and replacement, (in overall
embodied and ‘energy in use’ terms) for at least 100 years.

With regard to land use, tower blocks are a high density form of
housing and fill the a current need in terms of the size and
accommodation type. Demolition and replacement places demands
on infrastructure and ‘greenfields’. A rational housing policy
maximises high density housing because delivery of facilities can
be so much more efficient than to a sprawl of cul-de-sacs full of
semi detached houses.

The Environmental Change Institute reporting to the Royal

Commission on Environmental Pollution ( RCEP) concluded that
high density development of smaller dwellings within existing
urban environments reduces ‘ greenfield take’ makes better use of
existing infrastructure, whilst recognising the increasing demand
for single person dwellings. (ECI 2006)

It would be wrong however, not to point out at this time, the
particular limitations of the science in this chapter.

The data for embodied energy from Bath University is by their own
acknowledgement, just a collection of information from various
sources with different methodologies underlying them.

Having looked at some of the primary sources behind the ECI table
of the embodied energy in new build, it is difficult to be confident
that these are based on strong analysis.

Further detail could be added to the calculations of embodied

energy in Normandie Tower.

Appropriate urban density is complex area of research that has only

been touched on here.

There is further work to do here, but a methodology is suggested and

there are good reasons and sufficient margins to be confident in the
overall findings of the chapter.

James Livingstone 95
10. Summary and
This piece of work attempted to assess the environmental credentials of high
rise residential blocks in a country that is generally hostile to the style of
architecture, but needs to face up to hard decisions about housing put upon it
by the exigencies of climate change and ‘Peak Oil’.

How successful has it been?

The three most important pieces of work in this particular area of study, The
Sustainable Tower Blocks Resource, The National Sustainable Tower Blocks
Initiative, and Euroace were looked at to ensure that this piece of work would
add to the available literature and not duplicate it.

Of the three, only The Sustainable Tower Blocks Resource makes a start in the
direction that this thesis tried to go. Useful and interesting as it is however, it is a
source of ideas, and not of analysis. This thesis has made its own contribution,
not only by increasing understanding of the significance and context of existing
high rise dwellings, but also by providing the outlines of an analytical tool for
building owners.

Chapter three provided a factual base for the rest of the piece, and questioned
some of the most common preconceptions about high rise blocks – those being
that the high rise concept was ill conceived and that high rise buildings were
badly designed, badly built and in poor condition.

The section about Modernism demonstrated the high ideal and, in some cases,
successful execution of the architectural concept. Modernist architecture, of
which the high rise block was an important part, replaced very poor housing and
the new occupants were for the most part impressed and satisfied by their new
‘communities in the sky’. It went on to describe how that ideal had been
corrupted by the political and economic imperatives of the time, and that good
design and high ideals became compromised by speed of execution, and
subsequently by a lack of understanding and resources to manage the huge
social experiment that housing had become.

James Livingstone 96
The next two sections of this chapter then looked at the way high rise blocks
were built and at their current condition. This was primarily descriptive, in order
to contextualise the later analysis, but also concluded that high rise blocks,
although in need of internal refurbishment and concrete repairs, were generally
fit for purpose and remain in a basically sound condition. Demolition on the
grounds of condition, has generally been a smoke screen for building owners
with overwhelming estate management problems.

Chapter four described why the issue is important and how hard decisions are
necessary. Climate change is a reality. Housing contributes almost a third to the
carbon dioxide emissions of the UK, and high rise represents a significant
proportion of housing. Housing is in short supply and poor condition and
investment in it is far too small. In order to address the climate change and
housing issues therefore, a debate is needed about where to refurbish and
where to demolish and rebuild. The emphasis in the selection of which buildings
to demolish and replace will have to shift towards the most energy inefficient.

Chapter five looked at the poor understanding the UK has about its housing
stock, and concluded that the country’s approach to energy efficiency in the
existing stock is naive, being based on misunderstanding and an out of date
appreciation of what is needed to achieve the energy savings required by this
situation. Available data was analysed and the chapter concluded that, on the
basis of the evidence, the labelling of high rise dwellings as ‘Hard to Treat
Homes ‘ is misplaced and an example of this misunderstanding.

Three case studies from primary research and three from secondary sources
are included in chapter six, together with a review of demolition numbers. They
look at the approach building owners are taking to the issue, aid analysis of
heat loss from particular building types and inform the later chapters.

It is evident for the English examples, that energy efficiency is not a primary
driver in doing refurbishment work. Where energy performance improvements
are made, they are done either for political gain or are ancillary to cosmetic
improvements already proposed. Even in the case of the Little Venice project
there is a surprising omission of the application of standards and scientific
principles, preferring instead a ‘hit and hope’ approach. Budgets and a lack of
urgency about energy efficiency seem to drive the agenda for these works. The
infrequent opportunity to carry out energy efficiency works, presented by the
erection of access equipment to carry out the repairs, is being routinely missed.

The thermal performance analysis, by observation and the use of IES VE

thermal simulation software, of Normandie Tower in Norwich is discussed in
chapter seven to establish what relative improvements can be made through the
introduction of external insulation and double glazing.

There was some discrepancy between the results and the actual fuel use, and
the suspicion remains that the overall level of results obtained from the
computer modelling was optimistic. However, the modelling proved pertinent
nevertheless, and the relative improvement in performance of the block was
impressive. Informed observation confirms that high rise flats should perform

James Livingstone 97
well as they benefit from a simple form and the buffer effect of each other and
the common areas to keep them warm.

Chapter eight studied the practicalities of improving the thermal performance of

high rise blocks, paying particular attention to the basics of insulation and
double glazing, and to the particular and relevant differences they have to other
construction types. Whilst the height of these blocks requires expensive access
equipment and results in extremes of weather, the relatively simple form and
aesthetic of the tower block is conducive to the fitting of external insulation and
double glazing without much practical difficulty or objection.

The impact of refurbishment and demolition and new build on the environment,
green field sites and urban density was then looked at in the chapter nine. It
concluded that, if the performance assured by the earlier analysis could be met,
the refurbishment option was significantly more energy efficient over the lifetime
of the building than demolition and rebuilding.

It also concluded that high urban densities are key to efficient resource use.
Urban densities can remain high and still be successful with good design, but in
most cases demolition and replacement of the dwelling is likely to at least
double the land use for the same number of dwellings.

Further Research
To undertake research of this sort is to realise the frailty and novelty of this
branch of science and policy. There is much research to do in this area, and a
lot of it will only be done when the political and financial backing is provided.

The urgency of the debate continues to increase, and the parameters change.

The housing stock is badly understood. The data may be there, but adequate
analysis for energy assessment purposes has not been done. Classification of
dwelling types as ‘hard to treat’ on the basis of whether there are lofts and
cavity walls, is simply not adequate for the challenge that lies ahead.

Some basic scientific parameters are still unclear in this debate. In the early
BRE case studies, energy improvements were measured in terms of fuel costs
to occupants. Now, building energy is analysed in terms of SAP ratings, kWh
per metre squared, and kWh per dwelling, and there is still no consistency
about methods of carbon accounting. This makes comparison and analysis

Embodied energy of building materials and installations is a subject that is

widely debated in these discussions, but the implications seem to be largely
misunderstood. There is little surprise in this when there is so little reliable base
data on the subject.

Whilst the detailed analysis of the energy use at Normandie Tower would be
invaluable in any debate about investment in it, there is scope to harden up the

James Livingstone 98
findings, both in terms of the inputs to the model and of prolonged study of the
ways in which the occupants use the dwellings.

To apply the findings of this analysis to all other locations would be to presume
too much. The findings have a general significance for high rise blocks, but
mostly present a useful methodology for understanding each one, as the need
arises. The results themselves are only reasonably accurate for this one tower
block and even then form only part of the equation.

There is a resurgence of interest in high rise living - and no wonder. Although
the housing experiments of the 1950’s and 1960’s failed in so many ways, the
concept of high rise living fits the times well now and, apart from building new
tower blocks, a thorough reappraisal of our existing blocks is necessary in the
current context.

This is an emotive issue. Many will argue that it is simply inhuman to cram
people together in a tall building, but demand for inner city high rise apartments
belies this assertion. This work has not sought to deny the importance of social
factors in decisions about demolition and refurbishment, merely to raise
environmental issues up the agenda and provide a framework to discuss them.

Resource use, security, provision of facilities and, as has been demonstrated

here, the potential for energy efficient living, must favour the high density
environments provided by residential high rise. The demonstrable potential
energy reduction for space heating and the impacts on land and resource use of
demolition provide a strong case for the energy efficient refurbishment of high
rise blocks.

Building owners are still continuing to favour demolition over refurbishment, and
even where refurbishment is being done, once in a lifetime opportunities to
carry out energy efficient improvements to high rise blocks are being spurned.

There are many reasons for this. There is a lack of urgency in introducing
energy efficiency measures in to the existing housing stock generally; there is a
political and economic bias towards new build over refurbishment; and finally,
there is a lack of understanding of the issues by building owners, who in any
event, are routinely under funded for investment in their stock.

Decisions about refurbishment or demolition of high rise buildings will continue

to be local ones in which local conditions prevail. Town by town, and block by
block, social, climatic, structural, architectural and economic circumstances
contribute to these decisions. All that is required is that decision makers are
armed with the right tools to make the right decisions, and the right tools
includes an energy performance assessment in the context of a changing

__________________ oo __________________

James Livingstone 99
Appendix 1: Normandie/ Winchester Tower Construction Details

Appendix 2 : Normandie / Winchester Tower Floor Plans

Appendix 3 : Tower Block Modelled variables for IES simulation

Appendix 4 : Oil consumption figures for Winchester Tower

James Livingstone 100

Appendix 1 :
Table 42: Normandie and Winchester Towers , Norwich. Existing Construction details
General description 16 storeys
95 flats ( 6 per storey with 5 on the ground floor)
four 2 bed flats and 2 i bed flats o each storey
central core with services , lift, stairs and access corridors to flats

Walls (External to Material Thickness
Pebble dash 10mm
External render 25mm
‘No fines’2 Concrete 300mm
Glass Fibre Quilt 50mm
Plasterboard 13mm
Plaster 5mm
Total 403mm U Value3 of 0.5397

Floors Dense cast concrete 250mm

Windows4 PVCu Double glazed 4mmGlass

8mm Cavity

Flat Roof 3 layer bitumen felt 15mm

Ply 25mm
fibreglass 100mm
dense concrete slab 150mm
Plaster 13mm
Total 300mm U Value 0.3341

Internal Walls Plaster 13mm

Cast Concrete 130mm
Plaster 13mm
Total 156mm U Value 2.3041

Dimensions Area m2 Height m Volume m3

Flat 1 (2Bed) 62.4 2.4 149.76
Flat 2 (2Bed) 54.4 2.4 130.56
Flat 3 (1Bed ) 36.96 2.4 95.90
Flat 4 (1Bed ) 36.96 2.4 95.90
Flat 5 (2Bed) 55.08 2.4 132.19
Flat 6 (2Bed) 56.8 2.4 136.32

Total Floor Area 5760m2

External wall area 3265
Exterior opening area 924m2

Dimensions are measured , taken off plan , or in exceptional cases , presumed
See Glossary
EN-ISO U Values as calculated by IES on the back of conductivity figures from CIBSE Guide A
( see Ref)
Windows were originally timber single glazed, but were replaced in about 1985 with double
glazed PVCu.

James Livingstone 101

Appendix 2 :
Figure 24: Ground Floor Plan of Winchester Tower

This is the identical ‘sister‘ block to Normandie Tower

James Livingstone 102

Appendix 3:
Table 43: Tower Block modelled variables for IES VE simulations
Model 1 --- As built

Walls Construction 1 U = 0.5397 Original. See ‘construction

details’ for makeup of walls
Glazing 1 U= 5.2237 4mm single glazed

Air infiltration First 3.0 ach Original

Model 2 - As existing (with 1985 replacement windows)

Construction 1 U= 0.5397 Original. See ‘construction
details’ for makeup of walls
Glazing 2 U= 2.8643 Existing Double glazed 4mm
glass , 8mm cavity , 4mm

Air infiltration Second 2.0 ach

Model 3 – As existing plus external insulation

Walls Construction 2 U = 0.2783 Externally insulated walls

Glazing 2 U= 2.8643 Existing Double glazed 4mm
glass , 8mm cavity , 4mm

Air infiltration Third 1.0 ach

Model 4 – As existing plus 2006 Double glazing

Walls Construction 1 U = 0.5397 Original. See ‘construction

details’ for makeup of walls
Glazing 3 U= 1.9698

Air infiltration Fourth 0.7

Model 5 – Added External Insulation plus 2006 Double glazing

Walls Construction 2 U = 0.2783 Externally insulated walls

Glazing 3 U= 1.9698

Air infiltration Fifth 0.4 ach

James Livingstone 103

Appendix 4
Table 44: Oil consumption for Winchester Tower, Norwich.

Oil Consumption

Date 05/06 Consumption Cost

(litres) (£)

05.04.2005 7,000 2,104.20

12.05.2005 7,009 2,106.90
13.06.2005 6,200 1,949.28
18.07.2005 5,000 1,574.50
15.08.2005 5,219 1,772.37
19.09.2005 7,000 2,420.60
28.10.2005 7,000 2,522.10
17.11.2005 7,150 2,431.72
31.11.2005 6,980 2,346.68
15.12.2005 7,000 2,443.00
22.12.2005 7,038 2,373.21
03.02.2006 7,006 2,380.64
12.01.2006 7,130 2,510.47
17.02.2006 7,120 2,503.39
03.03.2006 7,178 2,500.10
17.03.2006 10,724 3,809.16

Total 111,754 £ 37,748.32

Average Unit Cost (p/litre) 0.338
kWh 1,184,592.40 3.2 p/kWh

James Livingstone 104

Abbreviations / Glossary

Bredem definition from Building Research Establishment General Information Sheet 31. from accessed 04.01.08

Decent Homes programme defined with the aid of the Department of Communities and Local
Government at accessed

HECA definition from Defra

environment/climatechange/uk/publicsector/localauth/heca95/index.htm accessed 04.01.08

Non traditional Construction defined with help from National Centre For Excellence in Housing
at accessed 03.01.08

PassivHaus definition with help from PassivHaus UK. from

accessed 03.01.08

Retscreen from accessed 04.01.08

ROCS definition assistance from
accessed 03-01-08

SAP definition with assistance from Building Research Establishment at accessed 03.01.08

U Value definition from Clear at :
nsmittance.html accessed 03.01.08

Warm front definition from accessed 07.01.08

1. Introduction:
Department of Communities and Local Government.(2005) English House Condition Survey
from research/housing surveys/ english house
condition/ Accessed 08.07 to 01.08

Euroace. Accessed. 09-07 to 01-08

Eso News

Accessed 12.01.08

2. Literature Review
Sustaining Towers Resource: (Accessed 09-07 to 01-08)

National Sustainable Tower Block Initiative (NSTBI) from

(Accessed 09-07 to 01-08)

James Livingstone 105

Gale T, and Church C (2000). Streets in the Sky. Towards improving the Quality of life in Tower
blocks in the UK. The First Report of the National Sustainable Tower blocks initiative. Available
from NSTBI ( Retrieved 12-10-2007 )

Euroace . Accessed. 09-07 to 01-08

IES VE. Software downloaded from IES April 2007

Build Desk 3.2. U Value Calculator software. Download from Build Desk Ltd. September 2007.

Roaf S, Crichton D, Nicol F. (2005) Adapting Buildings and Cities for Climate Change. Elsevier /
Architectural Press. Oxford

Glendenning M and Muthesius S. (1993). Tower Block. Modern Public Housing in England
Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Modern British Studies in Art.

Open University. From here to Modernity. ( Accessed October 2007)

Jencks.C. (2000) Le Corbusier and the Cultural Revolution in Architecture. Monacelli Press.

Abercrombie. P. (1945). The Greater London Plan 1944: London HMSO

Concrete Today. The Cement and Concrete Association Jul – Sept 1951 Living in Flats .
Sourced via the Concrete Society Accessed
Sept 2007

3. Understanding High Rise Buildings

Glendenning M and Muthesius S. (1993). Tower Block. Modern Public Housing in England
Scotland and Northern Ireland. Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Modern
British Studies in Art.

Open University (No date) . From here to Modernity. ( Accessed October 2007)

Jencks.C. (2000) Le Corbusier and the Cultural Revolution in Architecture. New York. Monacelli

Unite D’habitation from Great buildings on line

bin/gbi.cgi/Unite_d_Habitation.html/cid_2464522.html. Accessed 12.01.08

Abercrombie. P. (1945). The Greater London Plan 1944: London. HMSO

Concrete Today . The Cement and Concrete Association Jul – Sept 1951 Living in Flats
Sourced via the Concrete Society accessed

Glick D H and Reeves B R (1996) Building Research Establishment Report. The structural
condition of cast-in-situ concrete high-rise dwellings. Garston. Building Research

Williams A.N and Ward GC (1991). The Renovation of Wimpey No Fines Housing. Garston.
Building Research Establishment.

BRE (1985). The Structure of Ronan Point and other Taylor Woodrow - Anglian buildings.
Garston. .Building Research Establishment.

Build Desk 3.2. U Value Calculator software. Download from Build Desk Ltd. September 2007.

James Livingstone 106

Hotchkiss A.R and Edwards MJ . (1988) Bison Large Panel System Dwellings: Constructional
details . Garston. Building Research Establishment.

CIBSE (1999) Guide A Environmental Design . London. Chartered Institute of Building


The Department of the Environment (DOE) (1996) Good Practise Case Study 121. Energy
Efficient Refurbishment of High Rise LPS dwellings. Garston. Building Research Establishment.

Rouse and Delatte (2003) Lessons from the Progressive Collapse of the Ronan Point Apartment
Tower, Proceedings of the 3rd ASCE Forensics Congress, October 19 - 21, 2003, San Diego,
Accessed 21.08.07

Wearne, Phillip (2000). Collapse: When Buildings Fall Down. TV Books, L.L.C., USA. via
Accessed 21.08.07

Davis Langdon & Everest (2002) Refurbishing a Tower Block, Cost model, From Issue 49 of
Social Housing: December 2002 via

Ciria (1992) Special Publication 87 . Wall technology. Volume E. Large Heavy units on framed
buildings and in situ Concrete. London .Ciria

Currie R J, Reeves B R, Moore J F (1987) BRE report A .The structural adequacy and durability
of large panel system dwellings. Garston, Building Research Establishment

Department of Communities and Local Government.(2005) English House Condition Survey

from research/housing surveys/ english house
condition/ Accessed 08.07 to 01.08

Brookes. A (1998) Cladding of Buildings . London. Spon .

4. Environmental, Social and Legislative context

Summary for Policymakers of the Synthesis Report of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report
DRAFT COPY 16 NOVEMBER 2007 23:04 – Subject to final copyedit. Accessed 20.11.08

Dti. (2003). Energy White Paper – Our Energy Future – Creating a Low Carbon Economy
Norwich. HMSO

Department of Communities and Local Government (2007)

Department of Trade and Industry via The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and
Technology – Second Report 2005

Helweg-Larsen et al. (2007) Zero Carbon Britain. Machynlleth. Centre for Alternative

Kate Barker (2004) Review of Housing Supply . (Delivering our stability : securing our future
housing needs). at :

James Livingstone 107

Constructing Excellence via Stock Take (2006)
Accessed 08.09.07

XCO2 (2002) Insulation for Environmental Sustainability A Guide . London XCO2 Conisbee

Environmental Change Institute. (2007) Reducing the Environmental Impact of Housing Final
report – Appendix E. Oxford. Environmental Change Institute

Boardman B,. et al (2005). 40% House . Oxford. Environmental Change Institute

5. Classification and comparison

Energy Savings Trust 1

Energy Savings Trust 2 Best Practice in Housing . Hard To Treat Homes and Fuel Poverty.

Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes (Insulation Strategy Group and Hard-to-Treat
Subgroup (2006) Final Report : Identifying and Quantifying the Prevalence of Hard to Treat
Homes. From :
ar%2006.pdf (accessed 22/10/2007)

Centre for Sustainable Energy (March 2005). Fuel Poverty and Non Traditional Constructions
Prepared for the HTT Sub-Group of the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes. Bristol. Centre
for Sustainable Energy. From :
ar%2006.pdf (accessed 23/10/2007)

Energy Savings Trust Information team . 21/02/2006 from

accessed 20th December 2007

UK Fuel Poverty Monitor.(2006) Separate but Unequal . Energy Efficiency standards in social
housing in the United Kingdom. Third Year report . From:
_Kingdo1.pdf. Accessed September 2007

6. Case studies
John Prescott to the Better Buildings Summit quoted by ‘ Enabling Concepts’ at :

Wates Construction Limited from 16/11/2007

Makartstrasse Flats information from Nachhaltig Wirtschaften. www. accessed 10.12.07

Makartstrasse Flats Photographs from Gap Solar at
pdf. accessed 10.12.07

Euroace : Energy Efficiency in High Rise Refurbishment Case Study Series.
Interviews 9 October 2007 : Anthony Dickens – and Prija of Wates Construction.

James Livingstone 108

Various correspondence by e mail with Martyn Kemp and Ken Lee of Kemp Muir Weallans
between October 2007 and January 2008.

Information obtained from site visit and interviews with Apollo Construction, and Homes for
Islington. 8 October 2007

Norwich City Council Interviews October 2007

UK Housing Wiki at,

accessed 08.01.08

7. Analysis of heat loads in high rise residential buildings

CIBSE (1999) Guide A Environmental Design . London. Chartered Institute of Building

Fuel Prophet : from Association for the Conservation of Energy at Downloaded 08.07.

8. Improvements to thermal performance. Potentials and Practicalities

Colwell S and Martin B ( 2003) . Fire Performance of External Thermal Insulation for walls of
Multi Storey Buildings. Garston. Building Establishment.

Swiss Lab BBA certificate 2001 BBA

Trim MJB (1991) BRE information paper. Improving the Energy efficiency Performance of High
rise flats . Garston .Building Research Establishment

Technical literature from Sto Ltd, Permarock Ltd , Alumasc and Weber Ltd

Energy Savings Trust (Feb 2004) Energy Efficient Best Practice in Housing Community Heating
Aberdeen City Council Case study. London. Energy Savings Trust.

Ashden Awards from accessed 30.11.07

Sandwell PV information from : accessed

CIS tower information from :
1116834043935&pagename= CoopBank/Page/tplBlank&c=Page. Accessed 30.11.07

Retscreen software from accessed 04.01.08

Energy for Sustainable Development Ltd (2003). Bradford Tower Block Wind Energy Feasibility
Study. Downloaded from
December 14 2007

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9. The environmental impact of demolition, replacement and

refurbishment of high rise blocks.
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downloaded from September 2007

Environmental Change Institute (2007) . Reducing the Environmental Impact of Housing Final
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