The Rylands Building

The mission of this ambitious project to transform the iconic Rylands Building is to create a net zero carbon building with listed status by carefully restoring, refurbishing and extending the existing building. 

An architect's render of the Rylands Building in Manchester showing a 1930s style facade in the sunshine

Key information

Architect

Jeffrey Bell Architects

Client

AM Alpha

Value

Undisclosed

Year of Completion

2025

Sector

Challenge

A prominent 1929 Grade II-listed department store building in Manchester, formerly home to Debenhams, will be converted into an office-led mixed-use development. The proposal includes 70,000ft2 of retail and leisure space on the ground floor, 298,000ft2 of office space on the upper three floors, and 40,000ft2 of offices and a winter garden in a four-storey rooftop extension. Part of the building will be demolished to create a atrium winter garden providing natural light.

Part of the building will be demolished to create an atrium, providing natural light across the second to seventh floors.

Working alongside Jeffrey Bell Architects, we are providing MEP Engineering, Net Zero Carbon services and Sustainability Consultancy for the scheme.

Fabric first

We took a fabric first approach to significantly reduce energy consumption, using the existing fabric of the building wherever possible. The fabric has remained virtually untouched since the 1930s, with the lack of insulation resulting in very high levels of heat loss. The proposed improvements in thermal performance will significantly reduce the heat lost through the solid façade and improve the occupants’ comfort. The roof will be insulated, and the windows will be high-performance Crittall windows to match the existing 1930s system.

The building will be future-proofed to access the national benefit of the UK’s decarbonising grid, and to support the Manchester Zero-Carbon Action Plan. Improved glazing, internal lining of walls and an insulated roof will reduce energy demand, and electrical systems will be prioritised to make a natural gas connection redundant. Steel framing in the new extension will be standardised to allow dismantling, enabling future adaptation of space and reuse at the end of life.

The operational energy strategy is based on electrification with air source heat pumps for heating and cooling, and a mixed-mode ventilation system, maximising ‘free-running’ periods during the year when heating and cooling are not required. Photovoltaic panels will be installed on the rooftop to produce renewable energy for the Rylands Building.

95% demolition and construction waste diverted from landfill

45% lower operational carbon than average (existing building of similar size and usage)

5* NABERS UK minimum target rating

An infographic showing the re-use strategy for The Rylands Building

The re-use strategy for The Rylands Building

© Max Fordham

Circular economy

Despite the challenges in delivering a sensitive historic building refurbishment, the project team have set an example for delivering a replicable and scalable solution to material reuse. 

Our circular economy assessment will result in 95% of all demolition and construction waste from this project being diverted from landfill. Avoided carbon emissions from reuse on-site and off-site equates to approximately 1.5 years of equivalent emissions from a typical new build office building of a similar size.

Among the materials that have been saved are two redundant generators weighing three and four tonnes which will continue their life at the West Coast Railway Museum in Carnforth. The generators were removed in a complex process by cutting open the existing roof and lifting them out with cranes. 

More than 600 LED lights no longer required were recovered and sent for remanufacturing to enable the specification of reused products by the wider industry. This saved 14tCO2e and 644kg of electronic waste. Some of the remanufactured units have been installed at the London School Art. Recovered bricks from site will be used for opening up works, damage repair and column strengthening works.

A crane lifts a generator out of the roof of the Rylands Building

Two redundant generators (3 and 4 tonnes) were prepared for removal by cutting open the existing roof for the complex removal process. A mobile crane was hired to lift off the generators and load onto a truck for onward reuse at West Coast Railway Museum in Carnforth.

© Max Fordham LLP

Dozens of light fittings packed into a large cardboard box

More than 600 LED lights no longer required were recovered and sent for remanufacturing to enable the specification of reused products by the wider industry. This saved 14tCO2e and 644kg of electronic waste.

© Max Fordham LLP

"It's exciting to be involved with the regeneration of such a well-known Manchester landmark - particularly as reducing the energy use of existing buildings will be key if the UK is to meet its target of net zero by 2050. The work we're carrying out on the Rylands Building can provide an important example of how to minimise the operational energy use of large, historic buildings without impacting their heritage." 


 

MSci
Senior Engineer
Partner