The CIS Tower - Swan Street, Manchester, UK

G. S. Hay of the CWS, Gordon Tait of Sir John Burnet, Tait & Partners
Date Built
Danzic Street & Miller Street
When it was completed in 1962 it was the first building in Manchester taller than the Town Hall Tower and the third highest building in Europe.   Today it has relinquished the title of the tallest building to the recently completed Beetham Hilton Tower, but time hasn't stood still for this 40 year old building because it is now home to the largest commercial solar facade in Europe and the largest solar power system in the UK.

This project was an environmentally responsible solution to a health and safety problem. The service core of the building, that I had watch grow in the 60s, was originally covered in 14 million one centimetre square, grey tesserae. This mosaic began to fail a mere six months after the building was completed. The falling tiles represented a hazard that had to be addressed.   The Cooperative Bank, owners of the building, chose to replace the tiles with a weatherproof cladding solution using photovoltaics panels. In all 7,244 Sharp 80W modules were used to clad the whole service tower. This was supported by a £885,000 grant from the Northwest Regional Development Agency and a £175,000 grant from the Department of Trade & Industry.

Among the most amusing estimates of its generating power is the fact that it generates enough electricity to make 6.8 million pieces of toast or 9.9 million cups of tea every year.  Prime Minister Tony Blair switched on the Solar Tower project on November 3rd, 2005. Mr. Blair stressed how important similar urban projects will be in the coming years in the fight against global warming.