As a student in Glasgow during the early 1990s, anything south of the River Clyde was a mystery to me. Local rockers Texas referenced the location with their debut album Southside but, for all but the most adventurous of us, half the city remained unknown. Roll forward 30 years and areas to the south of the river such as Shawlands and Pollokshaws have become the hippest parts of the city, thriving with wall-to-wall independent shops and coffee roasteries.
The project is designed to meet the needs of primarily older residents, most of whom have come from one of Glasgow’s remaining ‘multis’ at Caledonia Road, which are scheduled for demolition. In addition to their generous, light-filled new homes, designed to comply with the Glasgow Housing Standard, residents have access to a communal social facility to promote healthy living, allowing tenants to remain independent. Spaces include a games room, communal kitchen, living room and a communal drying room for clothes, perhaps a nod to the sociable ‘steamies’ of yesteryear. These are all located at ground level, buffering residents from the challenging street condition that is the busy main road to the north of the site.
NGHA purposefully set the standard high for others to follow. The legacy of Elder and Cannon’s work for the housing association, as part of the first phase of Laurieston, continues to inspire and frustrate architects in the city in equal measure, as the high quality of design, materials and construction in evidence there remains mostly out of reach in today’s economic climate. However, that succeeded in setting the tone, and Urban Union has responded accordingly with the further private-sale sections of the Laurieston masterplan.
Commissioned just before the heat pump revolution, the focus was on minimising heating costs as much as minimising carbon emissions with a fabric-first approach. This will facilitate a range of heating solutions in the future. We required the project to meet gold level for aspect 1 and silver level for aspects 2-8 of section 7 of the Glasgow Standard, the design schedule for affordable housing in Glasgow.
Simon Metcalfe, development officer, New Gorbals Housing Association
Our design ethos was to create a unified building aesthetic, with materials used consistently both inside and out. Internally, brick walls in common areas provide a robust finish, while the light colour tone reflects daylight to the interior. Timber window frames complement the buff brick colour, while neutral grey tiles are used within the common areas for ease of cleaning.
James Brimble, project architect, PagePark Architects
The main residents’ entrance onto Crown Street is signaled by a large glazed screen cut into the brick façade at ground-floor level, all supported by the single extravagance of a large steel lintel. This bathes the communal entrance space in light and connects residents with the street life. A curved wall, which makes for an excellent bike store on its hidden side, further opens up the space and is twinned with a yet-to-be-furnished plinth, which may become seating for residents, but is the subject of debate. The Glencoe Vintage rumbled bricks of the façade return into the building and continue throughout the communal areas at each floor level. This was a client requirement, as were the quarry tiles at each level, with NGHA sensibly recognising the long-term benefits of durable materials that will require little to no maintenance.
Additional sustainability features include enhanced water use efficiency such as low-flush toilets and restricted flow rate taps and showers, together with home office spaces, enhanced noise separation, enhanced natural lighting and dedicated internal space for storing domestic recycling.
The Crown Street Regeneration Project was set up in the early 1990s to regenerate a 40-acre site in the heart of Glasgow’s Gorbals area. The New Gorbals Housing Association and its partners have been working over the past 30 years to complete the original plan. The North Gate site was the final piece of the puzzle. We required a building to attract and guide city-centre denizens across the river to celebrate and support the regenerated Gorbals.
The construction consists of a primary steel frame structure, in-situ concrete floors, facing brick walls and powder-coated metalwork and flashings.
Certain building forms were discounted at an early stage on account of procurement challenges and eventually a braced steelwork frame with in-situ concrete on composite metal decking floors was chosen as the most appropriate form of construction.
At the outset various forms of construction were considered with the architect and main contractor, looking at buildability issues occasioned by the tight site, and also to ensure that the overall building height met the aims of the brief. A major factor was the stability of the structure, given the tall, slender ‘fingers’ extending out from the core.
However, a section of the journey southwards has been blighted for many years by uncertainty and indecision. Until the final section of the M74, a hangover of the Comprehensive Redevelopment of the late 1960s, was completed in 2011, a no man’s land developed at either side of the proposed route. A decade on, in a world of climate catastrophe, building a section of motorway in the centre of the city seems perhaps a little ill-advised, but its completion has allowed shoots of life to emerge around the motorway’s edges.
Texture is added to the walls with projecting bricks in specific areas, providing composition to the elevations. The entrance is positively engaged with the street with a full-height glazed screen that provides a visual connection while also bringing light deep into the interior. Facing brick continues internally, curving into the generous entrance close, which also provides space for an integrated seat for sheltered, neighbourly conversations.
In more recent times, NGHA has chosen to nurture and support some of the finest local architectural talent. Glasgow’s best have all taken a turn at delivering a remarkable calibre of social housing for a local community that has remained resilient and strong despite years of turmoil. Each phase of the masterplan’s implementation has been robust and built to stand the test of time.
Our in-house geo-environmental team carried out the site investigation works, which informed the foundation design. Continuous helical displacement piling was used to transfer concentrated loads down to bedrock 30m below ground level. Vibration monitoring was carried out during the piling works to ensure that the adjacent building gable wasn’t affected.
Douglas Adam, associate director, G3 Consulting Engineers
The building is however, far from opulent, and was subjected to the usual rounds of value engineering that can remove all the joy, if not expertly implemented. The contractor here, CCG, has played an equal part in retaining the quality of the final building and Brimble and Metcalfe talk of a good collaborative Design and Build process between all three parties. While some balconies have gone as a result of savings exercises, deep reveals to the windows, every architect’s obsession, remain. Brick lintels are also retained at ground-floor level, with more cost-effective painted lintels swapped in at the upper floors.
Start on site September 2020 | Completion August 2022 | Gross internal floor area 3,427m2| Construction cost £5,960,000 (including fees) | Construction cost per m2 £1,740 (including fees) | Architect PagePark Architects | Client New Gorbals Housing Association | Structural engineer G3 Consulting Engineers | Quantity surveyor Reid Associates | Principal designer PagePark Architects | CDM adviser Principal CDM & Safety | Main contractor CCG Scotland | Energy consultant Carbon Futures (Consultancy) | CAD software used Revit
The work of the New Gorbals Housing Association (NGHA) in the Gorbals – or just ‘Gorbals’ as the locals know it – with their partner The Crown Street Regeneration Project, alongside their work with development company Urban Union in neighbouring Laurieston, represents a remarkable investment in the people and places of Glasgow and is exemplary in its repair and strengthening of neighbourhoods and communities. Indeed, urbanist Brian Evans brought delegates from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe conference on City Living here in 2019 to see best practice in urban renewal for themselves.
The building’s profile on the skyline and the introduction of the fanned plan is what truly makes North Gate stand out. The amount of space provided is also to be applauded, both within the common spaces and within the homes themselves. All habitable rooms have full-height glazing and the living rooms are well proportioned, with open plan kitchens tucked off to one side. The top floor corner flat has a double-height living room, with a small mezzanine accessed by its own stair.
The structure was designed using Tekla 3D modelling software, integrated with Revit to co-ordinate with PagePark’s design. This allowed the sway-sensitive ‘fingers’ to be accurately modelled and, as a result, bracing and moment frames were introduced to limit lateral deflection.
Due to the steel frame construction, bespoke psi-value calculations were undertaken on all key building junctions for use within the SAP calculations, to ensure thermal bridging performance was accurately assessed. The overall fabric performance was enhanced to reduce heating demand, with ground floors achieving a U-value of 0.08 W/m²K, external walls 0.15 W/m²K, roofs 0.08 W/m²K, windows 0.84-1.22 W/m²K and flat entrance doors 1.01 W/m²K. The flats are heated by high-efficiency gas combi boilers with flue gas heat recovery and ventilated by mechanical extract ventilation. The building has also been fitted with 72 photovoltaic panels, which generate 23,854 kWh/year.
David Russell, director, Carbon Futures (Consultancy)
The ‘new’ Gorbals remains faithful to the original masterplan undertaken by CZWG in 1989. That sought to remove the largely inappropriate utopian hutzpah housing dreamed up as part of the Comprehensive Redevelopment foisted on so many of Glasgow’s disadvantaged communities and looked to reinstate a legible pattern of streets and the lost tenement scale of this part of the city. CZWG completed one of the first buildings close to what was once the site of Basil Spence’s Queen Elizabeth Gardens.
Brimble notes that the planner was keen to ensure all elevations were special, given the building’s key location. Metcalfe also draws attention to the building’s location at the start of Crown Street, which lines up with the Saltmarket to the north side of the river. This, together with the High Street, is where Glasgow’s story began. North Gate is on an axis with the Tolbooth at the junction of these two roads and, steeple to steeple, these two buildings, old and new, bridge the historic line of the city. From the moment the scaffolding began to drop, it became clear that Glasgow was to have another fine example of housing to accommodate some lucky citizens. The building is generous, with large windows and Juliette balconies providing views across the whole city. The materials are robust and modest, with a rumbled concrete brick covering most of the elevations. The brick is detailed with contemporary flurries of soldier courses and ‘sticky -out’ bricks. The balustrading is equally on-trend, straight uprights eschewed in favour of slanty ones.
North Gate’s position on Crown Street provides easy local access to shops and facilities for the residents. Within Gorbals, the client has sacrificed land that might otherwise have been allocated to housing to provide the community with a library, a small church and a health centre. In addition, its own office has also been built at the heart of the community. All of these sustain the local high street shops and bring footfall to the area. With the exception of full employment opportunities, Gorbals is a truly ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ or, as we say in Glasgow, a ‘liveable neighbourhood’. It exemplifies the ideas that underpin Scotland’s new National Planning Framework – NPF4. The planning officer was also sympathetic to a significant reduction in car parking, given the tenure and age group of the residents.
It was important to keep the material palette simple, with clean, restrained detailing. This allowed the sculptural form to be the principal design characteristic. The inverted butterfly roof structure is concealed within a continuous parapet wall, capped in a pre-patinated zinc coping, which gives it a sharp edge.
We specified the brick for its tonal variation and soft edges, which evoke associations with blonde sandstone façades seen throughout Glasgow. The use of brick soffits and deep brick reveals throughout creates a robust aesthetic. Windows are aluminium-clad in a soft brown-grey colour, matching the distinctive powder-coated Juliette balconies externally.
North Gate is designed to meet Glasgow City Council’s Gold Hybrid criteria under their SG5 Resource Management planning policy. This required the project to achieve compliance with Aspect Gold Level 1 (carbon dioxide emissions) and Aspect Silver Level 2-8 under Section 7 (sustainability) of the Building Standards, requiring the dwelling emission rate to be 27 per cent lower than the target emissions rate set by the 2015 Building Standards. This also required space heating demand to be ≤ 30 kWh/m² and 5 per cent of the dwellings’ annual energy demand for water heating to be provided by heat recovery and/or renewable sources with little or no associated fuel cost.
Our brief for North Gate therefore invited the architect to create a gateway building and beacon to its surroundings, befitting its prominent location. This brief might be summarised as ‘set a crown on Crown Street’. The challenge was to achieve this while creating socially uplifting flats that become life-enhancing homes for our tenants and remaining in sight of the budgets imposed by the social housing grant funding regime.
PagePark’s North Gate, a development of 31 flats and facilities for social rent to the over-55s, marks the completion, just over 30 years later, of the original Crown Street masterplan and fills in a long-vacant brownfield site with a new city landmark. Simon Metcalfe, head of development for NGHA, describes it as a ‘beacon’ and, importantly, a way of drawing people across the river from the north bank of the Clyde. Project architect James Brimble outlines how the design was conceived as a series of towers that splay out to maximise the potential of what is a very small and exposed site, sitting as it does next to a busy arterial road. This move ensures all the flats are either dual or triple-aspect, with good-quality natural light. The design is deceptively complex, but in truth is mostly square in plan, with a number of fingers fanning out to take up the additional space available at the front of the site. These are joined at roof level by a simple butterfly roof, which, expertly handled by Brimble, celebrates the skyline. This approach represents a welcome change in a city with a current obsession for mono-pitched roofs hidden behind ‘high foreheids’. Brimble cites his love for the roofs of Glasgow as a strong reference, together with Duggan Morris’s Brentford Lock housing project, which continues to influence him, many years after he first became aware of it whilst studying at the Mackintosh School of Architecture.
Annual CO2 emissions 26.36 kgCO2/m2/year (estimated average operational carbon based on SAP data only) | Percentage of floor area with daylight factor >2% Not calculated | Percentage of floor area with daylight factor >5% Not calculated | On-site energy generation 18% (estimated PV generation) | Heating and hot water load 45 kWh/m2/yr (predicted) | Total energy load 51 kWh/m2/yr (predicted regulated energy) | Carbon emissions (all) 26.36 kgCO2/m2/year (predicted average operational energy including appliances and cooking only) | Annual mains water consumption Not calculated | Airtightness at 50Pa 4.36 m3/hr/m2 (average across all plots) | Overall thermal bridging heat transfer coefficient (Y-value) 0.085 W/m2K (average across all plots) | Overall area-weighted U-value 0.29 W/m2K (average across all elements) | Embodied/whole-life carbon Not calculated | Predicted design life 60 years