The CIS Tower

This Grade II Listed office building on Miller Street is described be Historic England as follows:  "... The Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) Building was constructed in 1959-62 to the designs of George S. Hay, Chief Architect to the Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd (CWS) with Gordon Thomas Tait of Sir John Burnet, Tait and Partners. It was built as the headquarters of the Co-operative Insurance Society and was designed to accommodate 2500 staff in a single consolidated site, instead of the ten CIS offices previously scattered around Manchester. A site on Miller Street that had been heavily bombed during WWII, and subsequently cleared, was chosen for the new Headquarters building. As part of the project another neighbouring plot fronting Miller Street and Corporation Street was to become New Century House, the Headquarters of the Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd (CWS), which was designed by the same architects and is listed separately at Grade II."

Below is a view from the roof of the Corn Exchange on Hanging Ditch showing the tower under construction.

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.