Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

No place like Hulme

  • Comment
The Rolls Crescent housing scheme, designed by ECDArchitects, creates its own identity within the regenerated Hulme area of Manchester. It uses a mix of one-, two- and three-storey houses to recreate the traditional street pattern

Architect's account


The new Hulme is a return to the traditional street pattern with terraced housing. The street hierarchy is established by using three-storey houses along principal routes and two-storey to residential streets, and the corners of each block are designed to provide a positive focal point in the form of towers. The Rolls Crescent housing scheme for North British Housing Association is designed to create its own identity within Hulme as a whole.

The development consists of 67 dwellings on the site of the notorious Crescent blocks in Hulme, Manchester, as part of the Hulme City Challenge area. The scheme is a response to guidelines set out in the Hulme Urban Design Guide and consists of three 'city blocks' in a mixture of one-, two- and three-storey houses laid out to reflect the hierarchy of the traditional street pattern. It is designed to achieve a high standard of energy efficiency, with typical heating costs of only £190 per annum. The scheme also complies with the BRE Environmental Standard and Secure by Design.

The design was developed through consultation with previous residents of Hulme who wished to return once the Crescents were demolished. A series of 'home visits' were carried out with models and sketches of the proposals.

The corners of the blocks are punctuated by 'towers', and the intersection of Rolls Crescent and the axis to Stretford High Road is accentuated by forming a raised plinth for the corner units. Front doors face on to the streets with a small privacy area, and window positions maximise natural surveillance and security.

All houses have private gardens and a communal space in the enclosed central courtyards. Some houses with smaller gardens at corners also have a roof terrace. Living rooms open on to gardens, with the exception of some units along Rolls Crescent where dining rooms at ground-floor level face on to the garden and living rooms are at first-floor level and south-facing. Six dwellings are designed to wheelchair standard with steel and glass car ports integrated into the design.

Roof materials are silver aluminium standingseamed cladding. As well as roof terraces, many dwellings have curved roof forms which are reflected internally in bedrooms. Buff brickwork and coloured acrylic render are used for external walls. The coloured render is used to highlight elements at the corner of the blocks. The scheme has been built using design and build with a contract value of £4 million.

Structural engineer's account


Curtins Manchester, this development being the latest. All the projects have been developed by housing associations and have generally involved a range of social housing in a variety of two-to-four-storey dwellings. The Rolls Crescent development on plan was one of the simplest layouts, as the site was rectangular, but in elevation it was certainly one of the most imaginative.

As with other Hulme projects, the main challenge came from the ground conditions. This site had been developed at least twice before, with Victorian terraced housing and 1960s multi-storey concrete panel units with link walkways, known as The Crescents. Demolition left the site generally flat with a covering of crushed brick and concrete.

A borehole investigation indicated that the subsurface strata were comprised of made ground in depths of between 1.0m and 3.5m overlying dense sands over stiff boulder clays. A set of plate-bearing and nuclear-density tests undertaken on a regular grid indicated that the compaction and composition of the made ground was not suitable in itself to bear the foundations of the dwellings. The site was treated by vibrocompaction to achieve a bearing capacity of 100kN/m 2, which allowed the use of reinforced strip footings at shallow depth.

Above foundation level and below roof level the buildings were of typical present-day construction, with masonry loadbearing walls supporting precast concrete floor units. For the roofs a variety of structural forms was proposed, including plywood stress-skin timber panels pre-formed and curved off site, and pre-curved profiled metal decking spanning on to curved beams and bearing channels. The structural forms were generally simple; the hardest problem was checking that the geometry was correct to allow the roof build-up to follow the profile the architect desired. The end result is a strikingly elegant series of roofs.



Hodder Associates Since 1994 Hulme has been undergoing its third generation of development. The infamous four crescents of flats which heralded a new spirit of habitation, which in turn had replaced highdensity housing and with it a community, have long since been demolished. Their replacements have been rising in prescribed pockets to an urban framework established by the development guide for Hulme, 'Rebuilding the City'. Given the largescale clearance (more than 0.5km absence of an appropriate urban context in the retained areas, the framework sought to establish an otherwise absent 'urban code' which had the following aims:

to create a diverse and secure community built upon the surviving sense of neighbourhood to realise a redevelopment that is both human in scale and urban in nature to create a 'quarter' which is physically and socially integrated with the rest of the city (Hulme is only some ten minutes' walk from the heart of Manchester) to create a clear urban framework which produces streets, squares and buildings of variety and quality.

The Rolls Crescent housing by ECD Architects is perhaps the clearest example yet to emerge under the auspices of the guide, and poses the question whether the new models represent a more appropriate form of urban housing and thereby engender a sense of community and spirit. The answer is emphatically in the affirmative.

The 67 dwellings are configured in three discrete courtyard arrangements to the north of Rolls Crescent. Each arrangement is outwardfacing, defining a strong edge to the street and, beyond private gardens, a modest shared semipublic hard landscaped area at its centre. Each is characterised by articulate corner 'towers' and by a general shift in hierarchy and scale away from Rolls Crescent. Yet there is an immediate sense of variation and richness throughout the whole development, achieved by the juxtaposition of different dwelling types, variable roof forms and terraces, and external wall treatments.

There exists a resonance, both ideologically and conceptually, with the aspirations of the Internationale Bauausstellung Berlin in 1987 (acknowledged by the architect), which attempted to re-marry architecture and the city, with its emphasis on the perimeter block and on urban spaces, whether they be streets, squares or boulevards. In particular, the housing project 'Ritterstrasse Nord' in Southern Friedrichstadt, co-ordinated by Rob Krier, bears more than a passing resemblance, although the Berlin precedent is of a much larger scale and truly defines a 'city block' with a consequent generosity in consideration of the external communal areas.

English preoccupation with ownership and low maintenance has perhaps, in this instance, resulted in slightly mean equivalents defined by dominant fencing and proprietary outbuildings.

At the urban level, the dwellings which constitute the three-storey corner towers act as nodes in consolidating the composition and junctions. These are heightened by their articulation from adjoining blocks and by the use of contrasting terracotta-coloured render. They will become important visual anchors in punctuating Hulme's completed structure.

The towers at the junction of Rolls Crescent with Old York Street are slightly set back and raised on a plinth, offering an elegant subtlety in reinforcing the hierarchy of the infrastructure.

Their slightly awkward roofs are possibly unnecessary in this context, although they offer a particular quality to the eyrie-like bedroom below.

Appropriately, the habitable rooms within the towers each have windows placed at their corners offering tangential aspects along both the streets they overlook.

The dwellings to Rolls Crescent are also of three storeys, with the living areas located at the piano nobile level where bay windows optimise their southerly aspect and once again present surveillance along the street. The dwellings to Warde Street are two-storey. As if to reinforce the hierarchy, low-level wheelchair housing, with adjoining glass carports, invariably defines the side streets, although the curvilinear roof form is such that an urban presence is always imparted.

The detailing underpins the search for a contemporary expression manifest in the whole.

Occasionally the desire to give identity to each dwelling is such that the external wall treatment is overworked, but the pervading use of buffcoloured brickwork, primarily as a consistent plinth to the variations above, offers an integrity throughout. The predominance of light-coloured render to the courtyards reinforces the gradation of public/private space from street to rear.

Window configurations offer a clear legibility of programme and expressed steelwork once again imbues the housing with a sense of urbanity. The careful consideration of metalwork and bin stores adjacent to the street demonstrates an attention not commonly realised by design and build procurement.

In many ways Rolls Crescent Housing represents a vindication of the Hulme Development Guide. ECD Architects has realised one of the more notable housing developments in the quarter, and through its expression and its definition of public/ private space the housing engenders a sense of attachment and a microcosm of a wider integrated community that was prejudiced by the new spirit of the 1960s.

Cost comment

COLIN MAGUIRE Poole Stokes Wood

Having successfully managed the NBHA's £20 million investment on Hulme, Poole Stokes Wood was appointed QS and employer's agent for this final phase of the social housing provision.

Selective competitive tendering to five contractors chosen from the association's approved list with tenant representative input was undertaken on the basis of JCT 1981 with Contractor's Design.

ECD Architects had been commissioned to develop the scheme to full planning, and the successful contractor was required to use its services to obtain Building Regulations approval, in order to ensure that the design concepts were achieved in the contractor's proposals.

The three lowest tenders had a spread of 9 per cent, which is very competitive for D&B tendering for a scheme with a non-standard roof design and construction, and the cladding format. Cruden Construction was the successful tenderer and its price was within the budget.

The following design requirements were unusual for social housing and affected overall costs:

standing-seam curved and pitched aluminium roofs with tanking membrane and plywood support decking, together with aluminium rainwater goods and roof terraces to several dwellings;

acrylic anti-crack thin coat self-coloured render to external walls with reconstructed stone feature string course;

passive stack and intelligent assisted passivent ventilation systems to all dwellings.

In addition, abnormal ground conditions with existing foundations from earlier housing necessitated diverting major services.

Nevertheless, the development was completed on time and £50,000 inside the contract sum.

Cost analysis

SUBSTRUCTURE FOUNDATIONS/SLABS £50.92/m2 Reinforced concrete strip foundations of varying depth to suit existing ground conditions. Suspended concrete beam and block flooring

SUPERSTRUCTURE UPPER FLOORS £15.82/m2 Regularised softwood joists finished with 19mm tongued and grooved softwood floorboarding. Structural steel beams to carry floors as necessary

ROOF £94.15/m2 Standing-seam aluminium curved and pitched roofs on tanking membrane, fixed to plywood, insulation, all supported on a structural steel deck. Fascias and rainwater goods in matching aluminium. Roof terraces finished with concrete paving slabs

STAIRCASES £12.08/m2 Fabricated softwood staircase, balustrade and handrailing with a gloss paint finish

EXTERNAL WALLS £95.03/m2 Cavity-wall construction with mix of facing brick and proprietary acrylic anti-crack thin coat self-coloured render system to external skin Precast concrete feature string course

WINDOWS £30.22/m2 High-performance softwood double-glazed windows, feature corner windows including Resoplan panelling. Luxcrete glass-block walling as feature

EXTERNAL DOORS £7.55/ m2 doors steel-faced, solid-core, panelled feature doors with anti-bandit glazing. Rear doors high-performance softwood glazed doors

INTERNAL WALLS AND PARTITIONS £16.47/m2 Party separating walls in high-density blockwork. Internal partitions in timber studwork

INTERNAL DOORS £16.82/m2 Plywood-faced flush doors generally with solid core firerated doors to three-storey houses

INTERNAL FINISHES WALL FINISHES £30.71/m2 Masonry walls finished with plaster finish, and stud walls finished with plasterboard and skim coat, all decorated with vinyl matt emulsion. Ceramic tile finish to kitchen and bathroom areas

FLOOR FINISHES £12.56/m2 Ground-floor areas finished with vinyl tiles on screed base. Kitchens, bathrooms and WCs with slip-resistant vinyl sheet. Upper floors to be finished with timber boarding

CEILING FINISHES £5.45/m2 Plasterboard with skim-coat plaster to studded soffits. Finished with emulsion paint


FURNITURE 17.05/m Fitted kitchens to all units, with adjustable kitchen fittings and white goods to units for people with disabilities and provision of grab rails where required

SERVICES SANITARY APPLIANCES £8.24/m WCs, baths , basins and shower fittings to all units. Disabled fittings to units for people with disabilities

DISPOSAL INSTALLATIONS £4.12/m PVC-U soil, vent and waste pipes. External system of coated aluminium rainwater goods space in the hall and the

AIR TREATMENT Hot and cold water services in copper pipework. Insulated combined cold-water storage cistern and hot-water cylinder. Gas-fired hot-water heating system. Condensing boilers installed in all units. Radiators in all rooms fitted with thermostatic valves. Passive stack vent system or intelligent assisted Passivent system in all units

ELECTRICAL SERVICES £13.46/m 2Standard power and lighting installation to each unit. Separate landlord's supply. Mains-operated smoke detectors, immersion heater, shaver point, cooker and kitchen points, doorbells, external security lights

PROTECTIVE INSTALLATIONS £2.46/m2 Lightning conductor to each block. Warden call to central control to units for people with disabilities

COMMUNICATION INSTALLATIONS £0.82/m2 TV aerial, telephone and cable TV installation

BUILDER'S WORK IN CONNECTION £8.19/m2 Mechanical and electrical works


SITE WORKS AND SERVICES £498,000 Boundary walls, railings, fencing and gates. Bin stores and timber sheds to each unit. Turfing to private gardens, Communal courtyards with trees, benches and lighting

DRAINAGE AND SEWERS £185,900 Adoptable mains drainage and plot drainage

ADOPTABLE ROADS AND FOOTPATHS £90,600 5.5m-wide roads to urban design code with speed tables in contrasting materials




DESIGN CHARGES AND ON-COSTS £185,000 Design charges, NHBC insurance, Building Regulation and planning fees, performance bond etc

Cost summary Cost per m Per cent (£) of total



Upper floors 15.82 3.00

Roof 94.15 17.89

Staircases 12.08 2.30

External walls 95.03 18.05

Windows 30.22 5.74

External doors 7.55 1.43

Internal walls and partitions 16.47 3.13

Internal doors 16.82 3.20

Group element total 288.14 54.74


Wall finishes 30.71 5.83

Floor finishes 12.56 2.39

Ceiling finishes 5.45 1.04

Group element total 48.72 9.26



Sanitary appliances 8.24 1.56

Disposal installations 4.12 0.78

Water installations/space 28.65 5.44 heating/air treatment

Electrical services 13.46 2.56

Protective installations 2.46 0.47

Communication installations 0.82 0.16

Builder's work in connection 8.19 1.56

Group element total 65.94 12.53


Total 526.35 100.00


CLIENT North British Housing Association

FUNDERS & ENABLERS The Housing Corporation in association with Hulme Regenerat ion and Manchester City Council

ARCHITECT ECD Architects: director David Turrent, project architect Sarah Darwin




CONTRACTOR Cruden Construction

CONTRACT JCT 1981 with Contractor's Design

SITE START 8 Dec 1995



TOTAL COST £4,171,171

SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS landscape SGS Environment, standing-seam roof, cladding insulation, steel decking Broderick Structures, highperformance roof membrane Erisco Bauder, timber windows Allan Brothers, passive ventilation Passivent (Willan Building Services), glass blocks Luxcrete, render Sto Render by CCS Scotseal, brickwork Ibstock, perforated metal to balconies and bin stores Trenarren Engineering, boilers Hepwor th Heat ing , thermostats, programmer, wiring centre ACL Drayton, thermostatic radiator valves, pump, low surface temp r7ads (to WCs) Potterson Myson, pressure-balanced showers Caradon Mira, H&CW combination tanks Gledhill Water Storage

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs